“DON’T FORGET” …….. TO TEACH OUR KIDS
BY JENNIFER RAWLNGS
I googled the words: “Awareness Day” on my computer and a wikipedia page popped up listing everything from: “Pig Day”, March 1; “Potato Day”, January 28; “International Dance Day”, April 29; “World Television Day”, November 21; and “Human Rights Day”, December10. I was happy to see “Human Rights Day” but one day seems pretty paltry compared to “Celebrate Your Name Week”, the first full week of March.
As a mother of five kids I am wondering why we are not doing more in our schools and in our communities to educate our kids about the world around them.
Earth Day and community awareness have changed the way many families and homes look at our planet. Recycling, conservation and reuse are second nature for my kids. They know better than to throw a soda can or newspaper into the kitchen trash – that it goes into the recycling. They are taught in school and at home the importance of taking care of the Earth and its limited resources. Education has resulted in change. Even slow change is better than no change at all.
So why have most schools and communities neglected to raise awareness on topics such as genocide, ethnic cleansing, human trafficking, gendercide and the global effects of pandemic poverty? We KNOW education makes a difference.
Three years ago, I cashed in some airline miles and took my teenage daughter to Bosnia to do volunteer work. She worked at a camp that brought children together from the three major ethnic backgrounds in Bosnia. The purpose of the camp was to teach “truth and reconciliation” to the next generation.
My daughter became close friends with a girl named Emina. She and Emina were the same age and liked the same music and tv shows. They even had the same “bracey” smiles. But Emina had never had the opportunity to run barefoot in her front yard; she had never known the pleasures of doing cartwheels and playing tag in her yard or planting flowers in the garden. Since the war, Emina and her family had never stepped foot on a blade of grass that surrounded her home because of the likelihood of landmines underneath. To Emina, this was normal but to my daughter this was an eye-opening education about the on-going cost of war.
The camp was just outside Sarajevo and after my daughter finished her work at the camp we drove to Croatia for a couple days to stay with friends. On our drive, we stopped in Mostar so she could see the famous “ old bridge” that had been blown apart during the bloody war and then rebuilt.
There are several broad steps made of white stone that lead you up to the top of the majestic, wide bridge that towers over the turquoise waters of the Neretva River. On the top step is a rock with a missile stuck in it and on the rock, painted in bold, black, capitol letters the words: “DON”T FORGET ‘93”.
My daughter will never forget, because she saw, heard and learned the devastating aftermath of war, but what about the rest of our children? I have spoken at universities where young students would raise their hands and ask: “What is ethnic cleansing?” “What is genocide?”
Isn’t this something that our kids should know, along with math, literature and how to recycle? How can our children remember things that they never knew and we haven’t bothered to teach them?
(Footnote from the author – There is human rights curriculum available to high schools from several organizations including Childrensmovement.org Unfortunately most schools are failing to utilize these resources)