Educating for a Peaceful World

In this week’s blog, BGS Headmistress, Mrs Gibson, reflects on the horrific international crisis in Ukraine.

I am sure we have all been horrified by what we have seen and heard in the news about Ukraine over this past week. The images of families being split apart, and ordinary citizens having to take on military roles they never expected to do is devastating. Even as adults, we can hardly imagine the anguish the Ukrainian people must be suffering at the moment, for their normal lives being torn apart. For our children, it is even more unsettling; they do not always fully understand the context of situations, the images they are seeing are frightening and having finally started to see light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, once again the world seems like a dangerous and unpredictable place. As parents and educators, we want to support our young people to understand the complexities of our world, but without paralysing them with anxiety. 

Often in situations such as this, we feel powerless and hopeless in the face of such human suffering and adversity. It makes us realise just how fragile peace is. I read a political cartoon recently that said “Those who don’t study history are doomed to repeat it. Yet those who do study history are doomed to stand by helplessly whilst everyone else repeats it”. And that feels never more true than when situations of crisis occur like war and a worldwide pandemic. As a historian and a teacher, I know that the purpose of education is to ensure we stop making the mistakes of the past; that in the words of the IB, we educate for a more peaceful world…only by educating differently will we stop making these mistakes.         

Across the school, class teachers and form tutors have been educating the students on what is happening in the Ukraine. Our teachers are there to support our students, particularly those who have links with that part of the world. In a world of media bombardment, being able to see the salient points amongst the rumours and sensationalism is paramount.  A key role for our teachers is to help students  understand where to get information from and that by using trusted sources, they can help stop the spread of misinformation. Through our IB PYP programme in the Junior School and our humanities teaching in the Senior School, we educate our students to be able to distinguish the truth from propaganda. We will continue to support them here in school with any questions or concerns they may have.

I know all of us in our community, students, staff and parents, will be concerned about the humanitarian crisis war brings. And I am sure many of us are struggling with how to help our fellow humans at this time of need. First and foremost, we can keep the people of Ukraine in our thoughts and hope for the resumption of peace soon.  There are also a whole host of other things individuals can do to support such as: writing to local MPs; getting involved with your local community or place of worship’s efforts; looking to support through donating goods or money to established charities such as the Red Cross, UNICEF and UNHCR; or contributing to the local effort to support refugees here in the UK through charities such as BRASS in Bedford (whom we support annually).

As our world becomes ever more connected, we feel, even more greatly, the pain of this conflict, and others around the world such as in Myanmar, South Sudan, Yemen and sadly many more. We hope through our IB philosophy and our programme of working with our established charities here at BGS that our students build resilience, gain the ability to question and seek the truth, learn the skills of adaptability and creative thinking and develop empathy and compassion, so they can cope with the chaos and volatility of the world around us

As usual I will finish with a quote; this one, from Helen Keller, I know will really resonate with our global minded community: I look upon the whole world as my fatherland, and every war has to me the horror of a family feud.

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