Schools Demining Schools:
A Global Teach-in
Learning to Act Globally against Landmines
United Nations Global Teach-in Project
In a world undergoing globalization and commonly said to be ìshrinking,î it is paradoxically the case that we have also gained a new awareness of the size and complexity of the worldís problems. The relatively recent currency of cynicism attests to the fear many people experience at the worldís immensity, and the helplessness others feel in the face of problems that continue to plague us despite all our progress. Hence, the most activist of activismís clichesóìthink globally, act locallyîótries to make our response to problems more manageable and less daunting.
The project described here began with the premise that students can learn to think globallyóand to ACT GLOBALLY as well. Our idea was to rally schools and students via the Internet in the worldwide effort to demine mine-infested countries and raise consciousness about the landmine problem.
ìSchools Demining Schoolsîólaunched in October 1997 by the UN CyberSchoolBus in collaboration with the American Forum for Global Education (which prepared the lesson plans), I*EARN, and a number of other organizationsóbrought together dozens of schools, from Belarus, Japan, and France to Australia, the U.S., and Canada. Using the Internet allowed for e-mail exchanges with mine survivors, diplomats, and anti-mine activists in many countries. Students also corresponded with members of demining teams in Afghanistan and Mozambique, receiving reports and updates with answers to their questions.
But learning was not limited to lesson plans and exchanges between terminals. It led to action. Armed with knowledge and a sense of possibility, students wrote to their prime ministers. They organized teaching campaigns in their own schools and communities., attracting the local media. They also raised money to be channelled to demining areas around schools in Mozambique or Afghanistan, thus making a few more children and their parents safe from the catastrophe that befalls millions of landmine victims.
The real power for this project was generated by the human network of teachers and studentsóand their message. The jumble of routers and wires that make up the Internet merely provided the medium.
Although this global teach-in on landmines culminated in spring 1998, it is still possible to access its resources and exchangesóalong with other UN CyberSchoolBus projectsóat http://www.un.org/pubs/cyberschoolbus. For information about the current project on human rights, Human Rights in Action, see page 302 in this issue of Social Education.
A Banner Year for Banning Landmines
U. S. Campaign to Ban Landmines,
Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation
1997 was a banner year for the global effort against landmines. Not only did 122 nations meeting in Ottawa sign a comprehensive treaty to ban anti-personnel landmines, but the Nobel Peace Prize honored the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. These crowning achievements marked the end of one process and the beginning of another.
The landmine treaty resulted from a remarkable effort by a coalition of over 1,000 non-governmental organizations in more than sixty countries to achieve a common goal: to end the production, stockpiling, transfer, and use of landmines. Civil society in league with committed governmental partnersósuch as Canada, Austria, Norway, and South Africaódrove the process to create this comprehensive weapons ban treaty, which is the first of its kind. This partnership between civil society and government is unprecedented, and can serve as a model for future diplomacy.
However, there is still much to do in the effort to ban landmines. One of the first priorities is identifying the scope of the landmine problem; currently, no comprehensive global information on it exists. The Vietnam Veterans of America Foundation has proposed a worldwide Level I survey to identify the worst mine-affected areas in the world. Such a survey will help donors and demining agencies to prioritize their work and allow for resources to be spent in the most efficient manner.
Humanitarian assistance to landmine survivors must continue. Survivors of this weapon include not just those who are maimed, but their families and communities, as the victims attempt to rebuild their lives, often years after a devastating conflict. Assistance comes in many forms, including artificial limbs, wheelchairs, rehabilitation, and job training.
Domestically, the United States must get on board the treaty. We have recently seen a shift in U.S. policy, with the White House announcement in May 1998 that the United States will eventually sign the Ottawa Treaty. While this is encouraging, a quick signature would serve as an impetus to the remaining nations that have not signed the treaty, and strengthen its compliance measures. Pressure must be put on the White House and the Pentagon for the United States to sign the treaty at the earliest possible date.
There is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that the landmine ban becomes a reality, and that we can all live in a landmine free world.
The following materials involve the current worldwide campaign to ban one form of modern weaponry: anti-personnel landmines. They include lessons prepared by the American Forum for Global Education in collaboration with the UN CyberSchoolBus that previously appeared in Issues in Global Education (December 1997). They also include some e-mail exchanges between school students and members of demining teams in Mozambique and Afghanistan that were part of the UN Global Teach-in Project on Landmines. Teachers can use these materials as one example of international collaboration aimed at solving a perplexing challenge to human safety and welfare. This article may also prompt student interest in other historical and contemporary attempts to end, or at least mitigate, the ravages of war through rules of warfare, international conventions, arms control, and disarmament.
Unit 1: The Scourge of Landmines
The leaders of nations and those involved in the political and economic sphere have heavy responsibilities in the production and use of certain types of weaponry which are particularly traumaticóI would like once more to make a forceful appeal to discontinue once and for all the manufacture and utilization of weapons which are known as anti-personnel mines.
Pope John Paul II, May 1995
The Tragedy of Landmines
Landmines are cheap weapons planted in the groundóoften on roads or in fieldsówhich will explode upon contact. Some of the mines are designed to cause the loss of a limb; others will only cause damage to the upper body; a third type fragments, causing injury throughout the body. A landmine can be made for as little as $3. It is planted where armies will travel on roads or in the fields which they might cross in time of conflict. Landmines kill and maim. It is possible to see landmine victims in Cambodia and Angolaópeople without an eye, a leg, or arms. They become permanently disabled and are often unable to work. More importantly, they need constant rehabilitation at a cost many of these nations cannot afford.
Landmines are laid during wartime or times of conflict. Many of these conflicts are not between nations but among people in a nation. The mines are laid, but when the conflict is resolved or ceases, the mines are not cleared. They remain in the ground, a threat to the people who work in the fields and walk the roads. The reality is that mines kill more people after the conflict is ended. If mines are placed in agricultural fields, their existence makes the land unusable. This has a negative impact on the people, resulting in fear and terror, ripping at the psychological fiber of a community. In fact, many think that landmines are more valuable as tools of terror than as strategic military weapons.
Children, in particular, are most in danger from landmines. Their natural curiosity makes it likely they will pick up strange objects. Some landmines are designed to ìattractî people to pick them up, causing a loss of their arms. Children often cannot read the warning signs about mined fields. Even if they are aware of the mines, small children may not be able to spot them since they can be laid in tall grass which makes them visible to adults but not to a small child. In addition, children living in areas of conflict may become so familiar with mines that they forget they are lethal weapons. Often, unexploded mines can become part of a toy they create. If that mine explodes near a child, it will cause greater damage than to an adult, who is larger and stronger. The child victims of mines are often from the poorest segment of society. They face danger every day but continue to walk through mine fields to find food or firewood.
Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations says: ìThe use of a weapon whose victims are overwhelmingly women and children is fundamentally immoral.î Under Annanís leadership, the United Nations has called for a total ban on the use, stockpiling, production, and transfer of landmines.
Questions and Activities
1. What are landmines and why are they used?
2. Landmines are ìtools of conflictî and ìtools of terror.î What does each expression mean? What is the difference between the two expressions?
3. To what degree are children the greatest victims of landmines? Explain.
4. Using the country reports published by the United Nations, find statistics showing that women and children are most affected by landmines.
Children Are the Victims of Landmines
Sometimes I dream that I have two legs again. Hello! I am Song Kosol. I am a little girl and I am twelve years old. Years ago, when I was very small, I went to play with my friends close to my house. All of a sudden, ìBOOM,î cries, terror. The whole of my right leg was blown offÖUntil two years ago, I walked on one leg with crutches. One day a car visited my village and they told me they could give me an artificial leg. They took me with many other amputees to a prosthetic center and there we received our new legs. I feel more comfortable with my friend the crutch, so sometimes I leave my leg at home.
Children are especially vulnerable to landmines because of their curiosity and love of play. Because of their small size, children are often most unable to withstand injury and blood loss if they are hurt in a landmine explosion. In addition to killing and maiming, mines also damage the childís physical and social world and can be devastating to the childís future development.
Save the Children of the United States, in cooperation with other members of the International Save the Children Alliance, is taking a new approach to landmine education. They are moving beyond traditional awareness training to add mine education to emergency relief and rehabilitation programs, childrenís schools and womenís literacy curricula, safe play areas, and treatment centers. The Land Mines Education Project in Kabul, Afghanistan, is one example.
Kabul is the worldís most heavily mined capital city. In April of 1995, the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) hospital in Kabul treated an average of fifty mine victims each day, as people returned to the residential areas of the city to rebuild their homes in the mined areas. Ninety percent of the victims were 18 or younger.
How does the Save the Children program operate? Children are taught directly in their schools by people trained by Save the Children, approximately one half of whom are survivors of mine incidents. The children are shown a slide program which gives them important messages about landmines, dangerous areas and behaviors, and warning signs. The work of deminers is also shown. The slide program is followed by a short discussion period. The children then receive a ìpassportî showing they took part in the program. Every time they have another activity, they receive another ìstampî in their passport.
These games are designed to help children learn the most common shapes, sizes, and colors of landmines; to teach them to recognize danger signs and avoid the most dangerous areas and behaviors; and to test their knowledge of decision-making skills. All of these activities are included in kits of material that are delivered to each school. Every kit contains enough supplies for all students to take part in twelve follow-up sessions. Volunteer teachers are specially trained by Save the Children staff to conduct the follow-up sessions. One hundred and seventy-four teachers participated in trainings between April and September 1996.
At the end of September 1996, Save the Children was forced to temporarily suspend this program due to policies established by the new authority in Kabul, the Taliban (ìreligious studentsî), which forbid women to work and children to go to school. Since then the number of victims who are children has risen.
Questions and Activities
1. Why are children the greatest victims of landmines?
2. Pretend you are a worker for Save the Children. Design a Mine Awareness Program that you think could help children to protect themselves from landmines. One idea would be to research information on landmines and their placement in order to create a board game. Test this game on another class, preferably of younger students. Do you think it could be effective in educating children about landmines?
The Human Costs of Landmines
Mr. President, every 22 minutes another man, woman, or child somewhere in the world will become the victim of a landmine. There will be 70 casualties today, 500 this week, more than 2,000 this month, and over 26,000 this year. These victims, overwhelmingly civilian, will be casualties of a peace that these weapons do not recognize.
Vietnam Veterans of America, March 28, 1996
Every month, over 2,000 people are killed or maimed by mine explosions. Most of the casualties are civilians who are killed or injured after hostilities have ended. Landmine victims need blood transfusions twice as often as people injured by bullets or fragments. The number of units of blood required to operate on patients with mine injuries is between 2 and 6 times greater than that needed by other war casualties.
Surgical care and the fitting of an orthopedic appliance cost about $3,000 per amputee in developing countries. This means a total expenditure of $750 million for the 250,000 amputees registered worldwide by the United Nations.
In 1978, the International Committee of the Red Cross created a special unit within its Medical Division to help rehabilitate people disabled by war. Since 1979, when the first rehabilitation program was put into operation in Ethiopia, the ICRCís 45 projects have manufactured over 100,000 prostheses (artificial limbs) for some 80,000 amputees in 22 countries. They made nearly 30,000 orthoses, or devices that support a paralyzed limb; 140,000 crutches; and 7,000 wheelchairs.
As of January 1997, the ICRC was running 19 prosthetic/orthotic programs in eight countriesóAfghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Georgia, Iraq, Kenya, and Rwanda. In 16 other countries, the programs have been turned over to either local organizations, departments of health, or other non-governmental organizations. Despite these efforts, the ICRC estimates that only a small portion of people maimed by mines get adequate rehabilitative care.
The ICRCís projects mainly involve establishing or providing support for prosthetic workshops and training local technicians. The aim is to provide immediate relief for those needing rehabilitation. However, the disabled need lifelong assistanceóa ten-year-old child will need about 15 prostheses during his or her lifetime. It is important that people be trained at the local level so that the ICRC can eventually be phased out. It is also essential to create technologies that are affordable in the developing world.
In the last few years, polypropylene has been determined to be the best material for prosthetic devices. One reason is that it is cheap; another is that it stores well and is recyclable. In many of the countries with ICRC projects, there is an emphasis on developing technical self-sufficiency and integrating the project into local organizations. In many of the projects, former mine victims are trained and employed. At an ICRC rehabilitation center in Afghanistan, the vast majority of employees are amputees.
Questions and Activities
1. What is the connection between the ìhumanî and ìfinancialî costs of landmines? Explain.
2. One of the concerns of medical people is the ìsustainabilityî of making artificial limbs for landmine victims. What does this mean?
3. Contact medical supply firms that make artificial limbs. Research the technology of this process. Why is it important for the technology used to be appropriate to developing nations?
Unit II. The Production and Clearance of Landmines
The real cause of death and impairment of innocent civilians is the very existence of anti-personnel mines, so sophisticated but awfully cheap, which look like candy boxes, are almost undetectable, and last a long period. Their production and sale must be stopped. Like other such weapons, they must be prohibited. For my part, I see little difference between those who use them and those who produce them.
Sadako Ogata, United Nations Commissioner for Refugees; Statement at the International Meeting on Mine Clearance, Geneva, Switzerland, July 1995
The Manufacture of Landmines
There are two main types of landmines: anti-tank (AT) mines and anti-personnel (AP) mines. Anti-tank mines are designed to destroy tanks and other vehicles. They are large (usually bigger than a personís shoe) and heavy (weighing more than 5 kilos). These mines contain enough explosives to destroy the vehicle that runs over them and as a result they frequently kill people in or near the vehicle. Anti-tank mines are laid where enemy vehicles are expected to travelóon roads, bridges, and tracks.
Anti-personnel mines are designed to wound people. They have less explosive power and are much smaller and lighter than anti-tank minesóthey could be as small as a packet of cigarettes, weighing as little as 50 grams. Anti-personnel mines come in all shapes and colors and are made from a variety of materials.
Although AP mines may kill a person, they are primarily designed to cause severe injuryóa wounded person must be assisted and this takes more of the enemyís time and resources. Anti-personnel mines can be laid anywhere and can be set off in a number of waysóstepping on it, pulling on a wire, or simply shaking it. Anti-personnel mines may also explode when an object placed over them is removed or they may be triggered by remote control.
The only effective way to stop trade in mines is to halt their production. Where do these mines come from? The question is not so easy to answer. The trade in mines, like all aspects of the arms trade, is cloaked in secrecy. More than 50 countries are thought to produce between 500,000 and one million mines each year. Of these countries, 35 are known exporters. There are currently several hundred types of mines in production by approximately 100 companies worldwide. The exact numbers cannot be determined because simple devices can be produced easily without being registered, licensed, or declared, and even sophisticated mines can be copied and produced in secret. When the export of mines from one country to another is banned, producers often deal through intermediaries to get around the laws.
Technology has been transferred from the industrialized Western countries to other parts of the world with mines now being increasingly assembled by local or regional subsidiaries. For example, explosives have been shipped by French and Italian manufacturers to Singapore, where the State industry produces its own mines. As public opinion against mines has grown in Western countries, production has been transferred elsewhere.
Because it costs so little to manufacture anti-personnel mines, producers can make big profits. As a result they generally manufacture as many of the devices as possible. They usually research and develop the mines for their own countriesí armies, which store them as strategic stocks. Once the market is saturated, such countries must try to export their goods to keep their workers busy and remain competitive and profitable.
Although mines are considered weapons and are subject to export regulations, they are traded in very large numbers either legally or illegally. One indication of the extent of this trade is the wide range of models found in various conflicts. Recent reports by Africa Watch and the United States Congressional Research Service counted no less than 37 different types of landmines from at least eight countries. These countries include Belgium, China, the former Czechoslovakia, Germany, Italy, South Africa, United States, and the former Soviet Union. A similar variety has been found in Somalia and Cambodia, together with mines manufactured in Bulgaria, China, the former East Germany, Hungary, Vietnam, and the former Yugoslavia.
Questions and Activities
1. What is the difference in purpose and design between anti-tank mines and anti-personnel mines?
2. According to this article, why is it difficult to get precise statistics on anti-personnel mine production?
3. The UN General Assembly has called upon Member States to declare a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel mines. Create a chart showing those countries which have and have not signed the Ottawa Treaty. You might expand this chart to indicate which of the signers formerly produced landmines, and which of the non-signers still produce landmines.
4. Reread the statement by Sadako Ogato that appears at the top of this section. Do you agree or disagree that there is ìvery little difference between those who use them (mines) and those who produce themî? Write a persuasive essay either in support or in opposition to this statement.
The Costs of Landmines
Mines may be laid by hand or ìseededî from an aircraft or by artillery. Once the mines have been activated they become extremely dangerous. Mines are often buried or hidden so as not to be detected and may be laid in regular patterns around a village, along a road, on bridges, near single trees, or along river banks. They may also be laid at random, and due to weather conditions, may move. Many mines are light enough to float. After heavy rains they can be found in different and unexpected areas. Mines continue to be dangerous even if they have been in the ground a long time. As time goes by, they may explode more easily as they become corroded or fragile.
Currently, it is estimated that there are 110 million anti-personnel mines laid in more than 60 countriesómost of them in the developing worldóand that a further 100 million remain in national stockpiles.
Every year there are some 10 million anti-personnel mines produced and 2 million new mines are laid annually. Mine clearance operations account for the removal of no more than approximately 100,000 mines a year. In other words, for every mine cleared, twenty new mines are laid.
The cost of manufacturing anti-personnel mines is approximately US$3-30 per mine, making it affordable to even the poorest countries. In contrast, the financial cost of mine clearance is very high. The cost to the international community of neutralizing them ranges from $300-1,000 per mine. Experts estimate that it would cost approximately $33 billion to remove the 110 million active mines which exist today. Even more alarming is the estimate that under current conditions it would take more than 1,100 years to clear the entire world of mines. Of course, that cost assumes that no new mines are planted.
The human cost is even higher. Manual mine clearance is extremely dangerousócurrently accidents occur at a rate of one every 1-2,000 mines destroyed. Though new technology is vital to improving mine clearance, there has been little research with few advances since 1942. This is true because mine accidents get little public notice and they rarely happen in developed countries. Presently, mines are detected individually by prodding, metal detection, or sniffer dogs. Prodding is slow, confusing, and dangerous, especially when the mines are laid in hard-packed or stony soil, or when they are fitted with anti-disturbance fuses. Metal detection works well with metal cased mines, but metal in modern mines has been increasingly replaced by plastic. New mines will soon be undetectable by their metallic content.
Dogs can detect the vapor coming from the explosive filling of mines, but they are temperamental, require long training, and tire quickly. Dogs have been involved in the clearance of mines in Afghanistan since 1989. The dog project has expanded from 14 to 100 dogs. The dogs, working in pairs, or ìsetsî as they are known, check all ground in a systematic search pattern that considers all the factors of concern to the deminer such as vegetation, wind, and damp soils. No deminer walks on ground that has not been checked by at least two dogs. Dogs are not the answer to all demining problems, but they are a useful tool to a well-balanced approach to demining. They are more than just a friend. They are a lifesaver.
Questions and Activities
1. What are some of the obstacles that make mine clearance difficult?
2. Briefly outline the three major approaches to mine clearance described in this section. What are the ìcostsî of each of these approaches?
3. Pretend you have been asked to lead a mine awareness training session. Draw up a list of safety rules for mine awareness.
Using the Net
During the course of the global teach-in on landmines, students corresponded by e-mail with people directly engaged in demining efforts in two countries. The following are examples of these exchanges.
ìReport from the Field:î Mozambqiue
This is a report to students by Michael Laban, an employee of Mine-Tech, a demining company at work in Dombe in Manica Province, Mozambique, January 1998.
I have just come back from the opening ceremony in Dombe and the kids in Mozambique do not get back to school until Februaryóand they have been on break since November!
The opening ceremony was on 9 January, and it is hot down there, 47C during the day, and it drops by ten degrees overnight. Also had a couple of severe storms overnight, and on the way back had to chop a tree out of the way so we could proceed down the main road in the mountains to the westÖ
The Opening Ceremony usually involves two aspectsÖ
The first is the traditional one, when the village holds a ceremony where they contact their ancestors and ask for their blessing for the demining operations that will begin. Mine-Tech is not invited to these, and I have never seen one. It usually happens the night before.
The second part is the more formal, administrative part. This involves getting the local population (primarily men) together and then addressing them. It is conducted by the Chef de Posto (local authority) often assisted by the head of police and/or other officials (head of clinic, etc.) and the villagers are told what is going to happen, and their questions are answered where possible. The Mine-Tech team is introduced and the results of the traditional ceremony the night before relayed to us.
A demining team will include the Team Leader, his second in command, a medic, a driver, and four or more deminers. The medic is on hand in case of an accident, and the team must have opened communication with Mine-Tech HQ before work starts. In addition, the vehicle must be seen to be working, as it will be the team ambulance.
The Mine-Tech deminers are almost all from Zimbabwe, but we have some Mozambicans on staff. They come from all over Zimbabwe, and from several walks of life. Most are ex-soldiers or have some military experience, but it may be very limited.
Questions and Answers: Afghanistan
This exchange of questions by students and answers from deminers working in the UN Mine Action Programme in Afghanistan was assembled by Programme Manager Ian Bullpitt, March 1, 1998.
Are you scared when you do your job?
NAJIB (Najibullah): No, because we came across mines several times and we understood that if you are careful during mine clearance then you are exposed to very little danger. On the other hand, we believe in destiny written by God.
ABDUL (Abdul Jamil): I am not scared when I am doing my job. We are working according to the strict safety procedures we learned in the courses. We are all like fully confident soldiers who are never scared of their enemy.
Do you often use dogs?
GHULAM (Ghulam Faroque): No. HALO (the demining organization Ghulam works for) does not have any Mine Dog Clearance. I personally believe that dogs are not very reliable, and who can guarantee that a dog will not have a bad day and miss mines.
AJAB (Ajab Khan): Yes, we often use the dogs. MDG (another demining organization) has experienced dog handlers, and the dogs are working faster than manual teams. Once each area is double-checked by dogs, I just inspect those parts indicated by the dogs.
ZARWALI: Yes, we have dogs who sniff the ground to locate any explosive device. We use two dogs to check each piece of ground we go over. When a dog indicates a suspicious spot, we check that spot with our mine detectors.
Do your families go and stay with you?
FAIZ (Faizuddin): Yes, we have the privilege of working in Kabul. We work for six hours then we go home, rest and stay with our family. My colleagues in northern Afghanistan carry out remote demining in Kunduz, Chemtal, Salang, etc., therefore they work in cycles. More than 95% of HALO deminers are recruited locally and there is no requirement for food and accomodation for them.
KHAIL (Khail-ud-Din): We cannot take our families with us due to the lack of basic necessities of life. Also we donít stay in one placeówe are like nomads changing our accomodation after completion of each task.
ASSAD (Assadullah): Our work location is changeable, therefore we canít take our families with us.
What do you think about when you are demining?
GHULAM: I think about safely finishing off my working day and safely going home with no accident.
ZARWALI: I think that I must use the prodder in the safest way to avoid a mine incident. I do think that if a mine blows up, it will cause injuries to my eyes, hands and chest.
RAQIB (A. Raqib): I think if this mine blows up, then I will become disabled. But I am satisfied as I serve my people.
Do your families agree with your choosing this job?
FAIZ: Initially they were not happy, but since I make money and I am looking after an extended family and our living standard improved a lot, they are now very happy. But they keep telling me to take great care while clearing mines.
USMAN (Mohad Usman): Not at all. I have to work as a deminer to support my family and solve my familyís economic problems. My family has therefore agreed to me doing such a risky job.
JAMIL (Abdul Jamil): Yes, I am doing this risky job to make Afghanistan free and safe from mines.
What is a typical day for a deminer?
ZARWALI: My typical day starts with a morning prayer. Then we have breakfast and move to minefields. We work in a minefield for six hours and return to the base camp for lunch. In the afternoon, I play volleyball with my friends and in the evening prepare the daily activities report. I also listen to the radio and study books in the evening. v
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