Friday March 6th April 2012 marked 20 years since the seige of Sarajevo. It was also our full day for touring around Sarajevo, the beautiful capital city of Bosnia Herzogovina – a city with a tragic past. Wondering why the trams had stopped running, we were informed that 11,541 red seats had been placed in the street – one seat for each person, including the children, who had died during the seige.
This was a very sombre sight – a sea of red which visually portrayed the huge death toll. This seige lasted four years, the longest seige in modern European history. According to our young tour guide who was a 5 year old child when it started, the people lived in terror predominantly in the basements of houses, without electricity, heating, suffiicient food and provisions. Many devised recipes for cooking grass in order to survive.
At midday, the city was encouraged to stop for one hour. At 2pm a memborable concert was held to the ’empty chairs’. For the last item of the concert, students took a place in front of chairs to denote survival, a new Sarajevo and a time of peace.
I could not help but wonder how this seige would have fared today with mobile phones, twitter, facebook, youtube and the social learning that could quickly go viral with technology. Would it have lasted the four years?
It was also a reminder of how important global education is – understanding our different cultures, religions, ideologies etc to skill our students with tolerance, understanding and the means to communicate through such issues.