‘Next 20’ Ambassador Gael Bigirimana educates pupils in Coventry
Gael Bigirimana was in attendance on Tuesday (13 December) as Kick It Out hosted its seventh ‘Next 20’ event in as many weeks at Alderman’s Green Community Primary School in Coventry.
Paul Mortimer, Kick It Out’s Professional Players Engagement Manager, was joined by the Coventry City midfielder to deliver an educational workshop around discrimination to Year 5 and 6 pupils from the school.
Gael was fulfilling his duty as one of the organisation’s ‘Next 20’ Ambassadors, which sees 20 players from across the Premier League, English Football League and FA Women’s Super League spread Kick It Out’s key messages of equality and inclusion.
Paul has worked alongside Gael at several ‘Next 20’ events now and is pleased to have his continued support in educating young people about our work and aims.
“He’s always an enthusiastic presence in the classroom and takes his role very seriously,” Paul said. “The pupils enjoyed hearing his views on how to tackle discrimination and they could see how much he believes in our cause.”
The afternoon began with Paul leading a discussion around the basic concepts of equality, but the pupils’ impressive command of the issues allowed him to move on quickly to more complicated tasks.
“Many of the young people we come to educate haven’t necessarily had specific discussions around issues such as discrimination, so sometimes it can take them a while to get to grips with it all,” he explained. “But I thought the Alderman’s Green pupils were fantastic and we were able to really test their awareness of equality.”
The pupils were challenged by Paul on their understanding of what language is appropriate before being given roleplay scenarios, in which they had to think about what they would do if they witnessed or suffered discrimination.
The responses were thoughtful from both the pupils and Gael, who explained to pupils the importance of staying calm and reporting discriminatory abuse to the appropriate person – usually a referee in his case.
Gael enjoyed his afternoon at Alderman’s Green and praised the pupils’ engagement with the content of the workshop.
“It was very interesting to see the kids so focused and involved in what Paul was saying and the questions he was asking them,” he said. “It is amazing how at that age they can answer difficult questions – their responses were fascinating too. I was surprised at their level of knowledge.”
As always, the ‘Next 20’ event finished with the pupils given an opportunity to find out more about Gael both on and off the pitch. They listened intently to his story about suffering racial abuse, while they were delighted to hear that he is a Coventry supporter, just as many in the room were.
Gael was quick to express his pride at continuing to represent Kick It Out through his ambassador role, citing his faith as a motivation for his support for the organisation.
He explained: “I think it’s a privilege to be able to come to sessions like this and tackle the spirit of hatred. I’m a follower of Christ, so as a Christian, one the things I believe my Lord tells me to do is to love my neighbour and myself. So I have to stand up for what is true and what is right. It’s an honour for me.”