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Teaching Peace: In a Time of War

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A decade of civil war cost the lives of more than 250,000 people in the former Yugoslavia. The children of this region have been irrevocably afflicted by this violence. Can Hetty van Gurp help teach the language of peace to a generation of kids who have known only war?

Teaching Peace in a Time of War introduces us to the students and teachers at Vasa Pelagic School in Belgrade, Serbia. The students include Nenad, whose father is institutionalized for killing his mother, and Emil, who is terrorized for being a Muslim. Their classmate, Aleksandra, whose father admits that he "enjoyed" the war, says, "Peace means nothing to me, because I don't have any peace."

Peace education can be a challenge at the best of times. It's even harder in a post-war atmosphere where the education system suffers from weary staff, overcrowding and lack of resources. Despite these challenges, educators Nena and Irena are won over by Hetty's brand of conflict prevention and resolution, the ultimate goal of which is to deploy techniques that empower children to more positively shape their destinies.

Ultimately, Teaching Peace in a Time of War shows that triumphs like the progress of Nenad, and of student representative Gordana, who helps organize the school's first-ever dance, offer a sense of optimism that even schools in the most troubled circumstances can become beacons of peace.

2003, 54 min