Elementary Life Saving Lesson

Capt. Rhoda Frampton
First published in
SFOR Informer#136, April 11, 2002

It is a bright beautiful sunny morning, the voices of children laughing and playing carry across the schoolyard. A soccer ball is being kicked about and a game of tag is being played; this is a recess just like any other. As the children file back into the classroom there awaiting them is a display of a wide variety of mines: reality for a child living in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Donji Agici - "We feel it is important for the children to know and be able to identify a mine or Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)," says Dusko Cubrilovic an instructor with the Headquarters Multinational Division South West (MND-SW) Mines Cell. "We do not show them pictures of people injured or maimed, as we do not want to traumatize them, we just need them to be aware."
All 23 children at Donji Agici, a satellite school in Black River, 100km northwest of Banja Luka listen intently to the instructor. The boys and girls of this school are normally broken down into two groups; ages seven to nine and 10 to 11-year-olds, but today is an exception.
The Mine Cell of MND-SW teach mine awareness education to children in primary and secondary school. The Mine Awareness Training Team (MATT), part of a program started in 1997, has conducted presentations to more than 30,000 pupils. The priorities are schools that are close to minefields. They deliver presentations to all areas within the MND-SW area of responsibility.
"It is a sad statement that lessons like this have to be taught to children, as it would be unheard of in Canada," said Master Warrant Officer Rollie MacKinnon, the Mines Cell Operations Warrant Officer at MND-SW Headquarters in Banja Luka. MacKinnon is a reservist with the 45 Engineer Squadron out of Sydney, Nova Scotia.
The children learn about all the different types of mines and UXOs: what they look like and where they might possibly be found. "SFOR provides us with the models; it's not same if you see just pictures. It is more real," said Cubrilovic.
If you didn't drop it, don't pick it up
"I learned that we shouldn't touch the mines," said 10-year old Nikolina Majkic who has been attending this school for four years.
"We warn the kids if they see something interesting, that looks like a toy next to the road, not to touch it," said Milka Gak a teacher at the school. "We tell them if you didn't drop it, don't pick it up."
This year the mine awareness instructor's cadre has been increased from two to six. This allows the MATT to provide this information to more schools and to educate children on mine awareness. Since the mine awareness program started, the number of mine strike casualties has considerably decreased throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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Photo: Cpl. Lee Purvis

It is a different kind of lesson than usual, but the children listen carefully.

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Dusko Cubrilovic, of the mine awareness team from the Banja Luka Metal Factory, takes the children through the various types of devices.

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School children in Donji Agici are given a lesson on the dangers of mines and other Explosive Ordnance Disposal.