The horrors that we are witnessing on our screens is unimaginable and make as want to act to help the situation. While banners, placards and supportive tweets give vital moral support and help to make our leaders do the right thing, there are practical things that teachers, learners and schools can do to help.
It may sound obvious, but many students will have questions about the conflict and may feel anxious about talk of nuclear weapons. Not every teacher will feel comfortable in discussing such issues, but making learners aware of the facts in an age appropriate way is important and knowing some of the history of what has lead to this war is important. Two podcasts which will bring you up to speed on the history are The Rest is History and The Big Steal series. Teachers should also keep up to date with developments, and the UK media is doing amazing work to inform us about what is happening in very dangerous circumstances. For daily in-depth analysis, I recommend the BBC’s Ukrainecast podcast.
Another important aspect to teaching about this conflict is make it clear that the peoples of both countries are victims in this and need to be separated for the actions of their governments. It is easy for our young people to misunderstand when the news reports that ‘Russia’ or another country is doing something, this is not everyone in the country, and the protests in Russia against the war is telling. The UKEdChat team spent time in Moscow to cover their education system in 2018, which you can read about here.
Many schools in the UK will have pupils who belong communities who belong to the countries at war, and many will have family members who are in Russia or Ukraine, or in the countries which are on the border who are facing a huge humanitarian crisis. This may be a difficult time for them and it is important that schools put in measures to ensure the well being of everyone during these anxious times.
It is also important to realise that not everyone will be seeing the same narrative of events around this crisis, and misinformation is swirling around the web and across social media. This is a good opportunity to refresh e-savvy measures and ensure your learners are prepared with a healthy scepticism, questioning bias, looking for motives and checking sources.
After an initially slow start, Government are now applying pressure to try to bring an end to this conflict. You may have a view you wish to share with the government, but I am certain that may of your learners will have a view. Whether they wish to congratulate on the actions thus far or pressure for a course action, your learners can write to their MP to add their voice to the action to stop this war. One letter won’t change policy, but enough support for a course of action will help point politicians in a direction if they think they have popular support for it. This may include helping the people fleeing from the war who need our support. Find your MP’s details here.
While contributing the defend enough directly is difficult, although there have been ingenious efforts to do just that, citizens can certainly help the people fleeing the conflict and traveling to neighbouring countries. Many of the big international charities are on the ground and need funds to keep this going. You can read more about this on Sky News. As central pillars of the community, schools have a tradition of fundraising for many causes, and I’m sure that many are underway already. But if not, will you be the one to start a campaign?
Missing from the pressures and sanctions being applied is on Russia’s main export – energy. Estimates vary, but energy exports, largely to Europe make up the majority of the Russian economy and what largely funds its military. Only a small part of the oil and gas used in the UK comes from Russia, with the bulk of the UK’s fossil fuels exports coming from Norway, but as a global market, when one country deduces its energy use, this allows other countries who are reliant on Russian fossil fuel, such as Germany, to source them from sources that the UK would otherwise draw on.
In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan in 2011, the Japanese government launched the ‘setsuden’ campaign which aimed to reduce the country’s energy use by 20% because the power gird did not have enough power which the Fukushima power plant out of action, and thus avoiding blackouts. It worked and energy conservation ensured that everyone had the power they needed without disruption. A 20% drop in energy use across all of Europe, including those countries who do not source their energy directly from Russia and who can export their savings, would go a long way in reducing the funding of the war. While the idea is a little abstract, this has the potential have a big impact on the ground.
Schools are in a unique position to both reduce their energy consumption, to educate about this issue, and campaigned for energy reduction across the country to try to bring this conflict to an end, and as a by-product reduce the risk of catastrophic climate change, plus save the school money in energy bills.
While these measures alone are not going the end this war and help everyone who needs support, we must do what we can to stop suffering and protect the vulnerable. This isn’t an exhaustive list, but the team at UKEdChat felt that we needed to do what we could with the community we have to do something to stop the suffering, and we wish for a quick end to this war.