FOR students at Robins Elementary School in Georgia, Atlanta, in the United States, threats of war with Iraq are not an academic exercise. Their parents might soon be in the line of fire.
All 460 students at the school are children of US Air Force personnel, and often face difficult, months-long separations from their parents. But with talk of war all over the news, the children are particularly worried that their parents might be hurt or killed on duty.
“They're very sensitive to that part of the world,” said principal Jeanne Roberts. “There are lots and lots of questions.”
Teachers try to use the conflict as a teaching tool, giving students lessons on the history of a particular region, or war and the military in general. They also have children compose letters to troops around the world for their writing exercises.
“They ask more questions about different countries where their parents are,” said teacher Sandra Freger, 30. “We do a lot of research on a region, or on the children in Saudi Arabia, for example,”
But, she said, despite the school's efforts to focus on the positive, when the news is all about potential conflict in the Gulf and nuclear weapons crisis in North Korea, the children are under a lot more stress. “You see a lot more headaches, stomach aches; they are easy to tear.”
Robins Air Force Base has served as a transit point for troops being sent to reinforce US forces in the Gulf region.
Ten-year-old Lucia's father was ordered to leave in December and the family planned an early Christmas in order to share it with him. But “like a miracle,” she said, he did not have to go. Now she knows that he may leave at any time.
“Mostly, it just makes me sad to think that millions of people won't have their families to celebrate birthdays or something,” she said.
Lucia said talk of the US conflict with Iraq worries her more than usual, but added, “I don't think about that much.
“I just think that my dad is going to make us grow up safer,” she said. Asked if that was worth his long absences she could only nod yes. – AFP
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