CM . . .
. Volume XI Number 17 . . . . April 29, 2005
When Heddy van Gurp's 14-year-old son, Dan, was intentionally hip-checked into the stage at a school assembly, he died as a result of the injury he sustained. This wanton act of bullying had such an impact on Heddy that she dedicated her life to promoting peace in schools. A teacher, herself, Heddy and her group, Peaceful Schools International, have successfully established the Peaceful Schools Movement in schools all over the world.
Teaching Peace in a Time of War is an account of her efforts to introduce peaceful schools in Belgrade, Serbia. This is a powerful film. Interviews with adults and children about their reaction to the past 10 years of war are both heartbreaking and disturbing. The background provided shows that there is a great deal of lingering anger, hatred and for some, unfinished business. The schools are in need of repair, the teachers are overwhelmed, and the students see violence as the normal way of interacting. One student laughingly states how he would like to take a chainsaw to Muslims at prayer, and yet one of his friends is a Muslim. The Muslim student tells how a gang of boys chased after him and killed his dog when it tried to defend him. One girl's father admits that, while the war was horrible, he had a good time. After 50 years of waiting, he says, it was worth it to be able to strike back. In this climate, the teachers, with Heddy's help, have undertaken the task of bringing peace to the school and to the students.
Detailed interviews with the students and teachers provide the viewer with a rounded view of the challenges. A group of teachers comes to Canada to learn about the programme and are keen to bring back home what they learn. The students are willing and able to take control of their own school and, with the teachers' support, successes happen.
Teaching Peace in a Time of War is a must-see for all teachers. The skills shown can be used in any classroom, and the close-ups of the students show the universal needs of all children. Aspects of the film could be used in any school with a Peer Mediation Programme.
Frank Loreto is a teacher-librarian at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School in Brampton, ON.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.