How do you talk about the war at school?

This text is part of the special booklet Back to school with all the challenges

Students have fled war zones. Others see violent images on social media. The theme of war is often invited to schools, hence the importance of better equipping teachers in this field, advise two experts.

“On platforms like TikTok, we can see living people who are hidden, who tremble with fear, who hear bombings, observes Caterina Mamprin, a professor of education at the University of Moncton. Children have unfiltered access to this on their phone. »

Similarly, Canada is a host country for thousands of students who have fled violence or come from refugee families. In 2015-2016 Canadian schools will welcome thousands of Syrian children. In 2021-2022, the country will host Afghan and Ukrainian refugees. During this period, other less publicized wars, such as the one in Yemen, continued to drive many families into exile.

“If the children have to talk, they start talking, emotions are experienced, content is brought to school, the specialist continues. Schools are often powerless because they are tough topics, and teachers are not always willing to respond to them. »

To address the shortcomings, Caterina Mamprin and Garine Papazian-Zohrabian, associate professor in the Department of Psychopedagogy and Andragogy at the University of Montreal.

According to the two experts, the school can be a space where young people can be listened to and where they can get answers to their questions. It is important for them to decipher the political and socio-economic problems underlying the war, they emphasize.

“This will help understand and complicate the situation,” advises Caterina Mamprin, who wants to avoid binary perspectives involving “good guys” and “bad guys.” It is important that it is done in a safe context for the child, as it is in the process of constructing its way of perceiving. »

“Most of their lives are spent in school, so it’s a place to live, not just learn, and I think school should play this frontline role in mental health,” says Garine Papazian. When students do better, there are fewer problems, conflicts, more motivation to learn. »


While the experts have created resources for schools, the challenges remain. “When teachers are less trained to meet the needs of students, their stress and uneasiness increase, M . increasesme Papazian – Zohrabian. They may find it difficult to manage the class, to master the content, so if they additionally have to take care of the well-being of the students, it becomes an overload. »

In the training to teach in Quebec, there are very few courses in psychology and psychopedagogy, Garine Papazian-Zohrabian laments. “I believe that in the long term initial training needs to be revised. There are resources, people should go get them. School principals should also give their teachers a chance to go and recharge their batteries. Continuing education must be done. »

“From the moment that we are a welcome country for people who have experienced collective violence, and we have given the right to protection and refuge in our country, we must also be sufficiently sensitized and educated about issues related to reception”. argues the professor of the University of Montreal. These people have a very heavy baggage, but also a very rich one, and they can bring a lot to society! »

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