Last Thursday, September 21st, was International Day of Peace, a holiday celebrated around the world. The holiday was established by the UN in 1981 and is devoted to “commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples”(1). The 2017 theme was “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety, and Dignity for All”(2).
*The following photos are what the students at our school wrote in response to “What does peace mean?”
Many Peace Corps volunteers around the globe do various activities to celebrate the holiday in their communities and workplaces. My site mate, Amir, and I organized some simple activities to commemorate the day in our school.
After a short assembly with students in 5th through 9th grade, where some 9th grade students read some information about the holiday and this year’s theme, we gathered all of the students and some of the teachers in the courtyard in front of our school. The students formed the shape of a peace sign, which most of the students but few of the teachers were familiar with.
After, during the breaks throughout the day, students wrote what peace means to them on whiteboards and posed for pictures.
It was the first time our school had done something to note the holiday, and the students and teachers alike were interested to learn more (at first, many of the teachers thought it was International Peace Corps Day!).
A couple of weeks ago, school began once again in Moldova. Moldovan schools traditionally start on September 1st, and this year was no different (at least in my village- some districts decided to start the following Monday instead). The first day of school is a big event here, and is called First Bell.
The day starts off with all of the students gathering outside the front of the school in the courtyard, along with parents and teachers. For the first grade students, this is their very first day of school, and much of the celebrations focus on them. There are speeches, recitations of poems, and maybe a song or two. The 1st grade students receive their first textbook, given to them from students in the 9th grade.
Then, at the very end of the ceremony, a ninth grade boy hoists a first grade girl on his shoulders and they walk around the circle of other students as the girl rings a huge bell, signifying the start of the school year (and hence the name “First Bell”). The students enter the school and have a one hour lesson with their homeroom classes, and then everyone is free to go home!
I think it’s a very nice way to start off the school year on the right foot. I was a little nervous in the days heading up to the first day as rain was predicted (meaning all this would have to occur inside a very small assembly room), but the weather ended up being very nice!