Iraq's Children of War and America's Children
Stomfay-Stitz, Aline, Wheeler, Edyth, Childhood Education
Student groups on several U.S. college campuses have been spearheading a drive to gather toys for Iraqi children. Such efforts remind us of the active role ACEI has taken in support of child ten living in war-torn regions--as can be seen in our position statement on War and Children (1973), its Resolution on Child Soldiers (2003), and the ACEI Exchange article "Children and War/ Peace Education" (2003), written by ACEI's Executive Director, Jerry Odland. Jerry's article underscored the sad fact that "children continue to grow up in a world filled with violence and armed conflict" (p, 28-B).
Peace educators and activists are deeply concerned about Iraqi children, who are most directly affected by the war in their home country. At the same time, classroom teachers in many areas of the United States may have as their more immediate focus a second group of children, those in families of American military service personnel serving in Iraq and other trouble spots. These children are deeply affected by the absence of a parent. Growing numbers of American women, many of them mothers, have been deployed to Iraq. The internet and televised newscasts have allowed American children to be keen observers of the war scenes, adding to their fears of their loved ones facing danger and death. These are compelling forces that should motivate teachers to introduce peace education principles within their classroom setting and school community. Several classroom activities emphasize to children that care and concern for each other can create a school environment free of violence.
Iraq's children of war are being assisted by several projects now underway. These children are once again the innocent victims of war, barely surviving the postwar trauma of efforts to rebuild their war-torn nation into a new democracy. A soldier formerly stationed in Iraq ("Chief Wiggles") started a campaign to collect toys, sports equipment, and classroom supplies for the children of Iraq (see Online Resources). In a second project, the Montana National Guard has gathered soccer bails for Iraqi children. To cite a third example, Iraqi artists in postwar Baghdad have created an association, Childhood Voices, to bring creativity and the arts into the lives of children there. Furthermore, an international children's relief organization, Save the Children, has remained in postwar Iraq, engaged in nutrition projects and the rehabilitation of schools and health clinics.
Teachers can help children in the second group, those whose parents are U.S. military personnel, to better cope with the absence of a parent by closely monitoring them, engaging them in conversations, and keeping alert to signs of emotional distress. The children are aware of the potential dangers that threaten their absent parent in a war zone. Pat Brown, family advocacy administrator at the Jacksonville Naval Air Base, shared that many children are handling this stress adequately. Many children become withdrawn, however, and are reluctant to share their fears. Others, says Brown, will be "more vocal, with acting out behaviors." All military personnel have access to extensive counseling and family advocacy services if they are located near a major military facility. Support groups, clubs, and activity programs for children and youth are available. Classroom teachers can be in a key position to recommend assistance for children of service personnel where needed. …