Written on Friday 20th November, 2015:

As school ended last Friday, terrible news broke in France, but sadly, it was not dissimilar to incidents that are happening every day in other parts of the world.  The attacks, we know, were horrific and extremely saddening – all the more so because they seem closer to home. We all know Paris, or know of it through friends.  It was a reminder that we live at a time of discord and hatred, much of which seemed far away though now much closer.  A complex range of emotions were no doubt felt by the community as is normal following such devastating acts of violence.

What do we do as international schools?  How do we explain this to our children?  How do we react?

It is time for moral courage in our response.  All international schools must be aware of the social impact attacks like this can have and their effect on others.  This begins in our immediate surroundings and around our school.  It can, should and does go way beyond in creating a positive impact in our world.  How deep that impact is, depends on our intentions.   At times like these, we must go beyond academia, beyond bickering, beyond first world complaints, and seek to create a positive impact in our world as deeply and with the best intentions we can.

Many schools have a vision statement that talks about lifelong learning and participating in the global community.  It also talks about having an open mind and being willing to listen and change your opinion.

We should want students (and our community) leaving our schools as young adults to influence the world by making decisions with moral direction.  This is a necessary long-term strategy.  However, we must acknowledge the here and now too.  What are we doing to make the world a better place now?  We should consider everything at our disposal, from facilities to technology to purchasing power.  How can we use all these various aspects of our lives in order to enable a situation of reconstruction and reconciliation for “the other”?

We must encourage civil, harmonious and peaceful attitudes towards each other.  A critical mind is required in times like these; ask the Why? What? Maybe? questions, which may be tough and initially not seem harmonious and peaceful.  But honesty in asking them, with love for each other, seems a positive and genuine way forward.  

Friday was and still is scary, discomforting and we enter an unknown, both physically and emotionally wary.  However, the unknown brings excitement, discovery and possible solutions to the discomfort both now and in the long term.  We need to be bold in our aim for equity, justice, peace and a better world for our children and their children.  

The International Baccalaureate’s Mission states that the organisation aims to create young people:

  • who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

The time is now.  Our impact needs to be felt now.  

I am sure you will join me in expressing our sorrow at the events in Paris last Friday, as well as similar suffering around the world.

Yasir Patel

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