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Teaching children to play safe

By 1st Lt. Kristoffer Egeberg
First published in
SFOR Informer#112, May 3, 2001

Foca - Mines do not discriminate, not even when it comes to the youngest person. Every year, several children in BiH become casualties of land mines. Therefore, German De-mining Monitors have made mine awareness for children a priority task.
"Hello! My name is Peter," said Master Sgt. Wolfram Gruschler. His audience of children waited patiently for the translation, staring at the display of land mines in front of them. Some of them pointed in recognition.
One by one the mines were shown, every time with the same conclusion: "If you step on it or try to touch it, it will blow up."
Those are hard facts for children who face a hard reality; they cannot play wherever. Playgrounds are restricted to a few places where the de-miners have been and childhood curiosity may cost them their lives.
"To make kids mine aware is a job I feel is very important. Most of them are very interested and eager to learn. We get a lot of questions," Gruschler said with a smile.
The German De-mining Monitors consist of four teams that monitor de-mining activities by the Armed Forces in BiH in Multinational Division - Southeast. Every 20 days they get five days off. They dedicate these five days to children.
"We already had mine awareness for children in two schools in Sarajevo. When we visited this school in Foca, a total of 3,500 children attended our programme," said Warrant Officer 2 Michael Breuer.
With support from the SFOR Mine Information Co-ordination Cell (MICC) and SFOR Information Campaign Branch (ICB), they put together a programme and material which is very mobile. One truck is all they need and, of course, an audience of children.
"We have three stations: one slide presentation with a video, made in both alphabets (Cyrillic and Latin); one static display with mines, signs and games where the children can win prizes provided by ICB and one display outside where they can see what mines and minefields look like," Breuer said.
The children are certainly not allowed to touch any of the items. They are taught not to play anywhere where there are mines. The German De-mining Monitors teams also have different lectures for the different ages.
"We use different words for the smaller children and show them a different video. This programme is designed to teach mine awareness to children, as well as soldiers, within minutes. The special mobile kit we have consists of everything we need including TV, video, laptop and fake mines," Gruschler said.
The ministries of education both in Republika Srpska and Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina have approved the programme.
One of these days, children may play safely wherever they want.

Related links:
Engineering - Mines and De-mining
Nations of SFOR: Germany