Using Reggae to explore Social Justice



Cleeve School and Sixth Form Centre of Excellence

Grade and age

Year 8 (12-13 years old)




What has been done?

Students had learned about the culture and context of reggae music in previous lessons, as well as features of the musical style. In this lesson, students read the lyrics to, and listened to the performance of, Bob Marley’s ‘War’. A class discussion ensued as a result of the themes the lyrics and music raised. This led on to a group practical task using keyboards and lyric writing.

What kind of dl or sel skills did you cover?


  • Collaborative Talk (draw and build on subject specific knowledge collaboratively to keep discussions accountable within the discipline)


  • Self-Awareness (examining prejudices and biases)
  • Relationship Skills (communicating effectively)

Which authentic text did you choose?

Title: War

Author: Bob Marley

Which results can you expect?

The lyrics and themes have been taken from a speech by a black, African ruler from the 30s/40s. They encapsulate the struggles that black people were facing during this time period and contain the key messages of the civil rights movement that began and was particularly powerful through the music industry. We have a duty to educate our students on the important and life-changing events that occurred, and this topic is particularly relevant due to the ongoing Black Lives Matter/Show Racism the Red Card drives for change. This text is a perfect platform to achieve this from.

Through the discussion, the students were able to see the links to self-awareness and social awareness within the lyrics of the song: there is a lot of “we” and clear ideas of treating all people the same regardless of their skin colour and views/opinions.

The song is a good example of the typical blues lyric structure ‘AAB’ which students were beginning to identify.

The lesson would lead into a group practical task using keyboards and lyric writing, which will help students to work on their decision making and relationship skills; this is also where some of the disciplinary literacy of the musical elements and practical musical skills would come in. The students would be expected to apply the typical blues lyric structure when creating their own lyrics.

What do teachers say?

‘Tackling such a big and sensitive topic such as racism meant students had to have to have a lot of self-awareness of how they feel about the themes raised, and how they can word things sensitively and appropriately. They needed some guidance on this. Through the debate they had to become more open to others’ views and opinions on the topic.’


Text for Bob Marley’s ‘War’

War – Bob Marley

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior And another inferior
Is finally and permanently Discredited and abandoned Everywhere is war
Me say war

That until there no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the colour of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the colour of his eyes
Me say war

That until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all
Without regard to race
Dis a war

That until that day, dream of lasting peace, world citizenship Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued, but never attained
Now everywhere is war

And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola In Mozambique, South Africa
Sub-human bondage have been toppled, utterly destroyed, Well, everywhere is war
Me say war

War in the east
War in the west
War up north
War down south
War, war

Rumours of war
And until that day the African continent will not know peace
We Africans will fight, we find it necessary
And we know we shall win, as we are confident
In the victory

Of good over evil
Good over evil, yeah
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah
Good over evil
Good over evil, yeah

Group dynamics

Country: Romania
School: Colegiul National Gheorghe Sincai Cluj-Napoca
Grade and age: 11th Grade (17-18 years old)
Discipline: Sociology
Topic: Group dynamics

Soil quality monitoring

Country: Romania
School: Colegiul Tehnic C.D. Nenitescu Baia Mare
Grade and age: 12th Grade (18-19 years old)
Discipline: Soil Quality Monitoring
Topic: Quality Chemical Indicators

The sets of numbers

Country: Romania
School: Colegiul Națonal „Emil Racoviță” Cluj-Napoca
Grade and age: 9th grade (14-15 years old)
Discipline: Mathematics
Topic: Sets of numbers