Ukraine has shown the limits of Ecolint’s ‘values’.

Ecolint is right to celebrate its international roots and ties to the UN, but its silence
regarding Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine is a disgrace and undermines the international
values it claims to uphold.

On Thursday, the 24th of February, the leader of the Russian Federation sent an invasion
force into Ukraine. Since then, international condemnation has been swift. A mere 6 days
after the invasion, the United Nations General Assembly passed resolution ES-11/1
deploring Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and demanding the full withdrawal of Russian forces
in the country. The resolution passed with 141 countries voting in favour of the resolution.
A resolute display of international unity in the face of an unjustifiable attack upon a
sovereign nation.

By contrast, in the same six days, Ecolint’s response has been lacklustre, half-hearted, and
inadequate at best. On the 25 th of February, Dr. Hawley, the director-general of Ecolint, sent
out a letter to staff (linked here) regarding the “Conflict in Eastern Europe.” In this letter,
any mention of the words ‘invasion,’ ‘war,’ or ‘aggression’ are purposefully omitted, and
there is no mention of the countries involved. Instead, the letter calls on teachers to make it abundantly clear that any “signs and symbols [regarding any opposition or support to the
invasion] have no place at school.”

On the 4 th of March (a full 8 days since the invasion), the La Châtaigneraie secondary school
principal, Soraya Sayed Hassen, once again omitted any language conveying that the Russian
state had any responsibility in instigating this invasion in a communiqué addressed to the
school. Instead, the word “conflict” was used, which actively underplays the gravity of the
situation and suggests that this is a two-sided issue with Ukraine being equally responsible
for its own invasion.

These messages stand in direct contravention with the international values that Ecolint lays
out in its charter, in its guiding statements, and in its mission statement. In these
documents, Ecolint proudly proclaims to “educate students to be global citizens with the
courage and capacity to create a just and joyful tomorrow together.” They also commit to
“combat all forms of oppression,” and to promote ”an education for peace.” Finally, they
emphasise the importance of “developing autonomy, agency, and self-advocacy.”

These excerpts highlight Ecolint’s hypocrisy and the discrepancy between their actions and
their empty ‘values.’ If Ecolint truly believed in combatting all forms of oppression in the
creation of a “just tomorrow” and in the promotion of peace, they would condemn the
unjust, hostile, and oppressive nature of Russia’s invasion. Moreover, their banning of any
signs and symbols in opposition or support of Ukraine or Russia severely limits students’
ability to express their views and their ability to advocate for their beliefs, a clear violation
of one of the school’s guiding principles.

As students and staff of this school, I believe we should call on the Ecolint foundation to
reconsider its silence. We should expect that our school, which often touts its connections
to the UN and LON, be capable of voicing its support for the rules-based global order to
which it owes its existence.

In line with this, the Ecolint foundation should explicitly call out the actions by the Russian
state in Ukraine for what they are: an illegal, wrongful invasion of a sovereign nation. Should

Ecolint refuse to do this, and choose to go on ignoring inconvenient international
developments, they would confirm what many already suspect: that Ecolint’s stated values
are nothing more than empty words used to market a school whose only true commitment
is to its bottom line.

Written by a concerned year 13 student.

34 Comments

  1. Congratulations to this student! An example that even when those who organise your education won’t follow there teachings…you are a better human being!

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  2. A very well written article, clearly expressing what surely many of us parents thought when reading the communications from school. I suspect the school management patronizingly, and incorrectly, thinks the rest school community cannot differentiate between the Russian people and the Russian government, and would hide behind that as an excuse for their woefully inadequate communications. Sometimes not taking a side is the same as taking a side.

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  3. Quite right and congratulations on your article. One of the greatest gifts any education can give is that of having a point of view. On this war there should be no equivocation and you articulate this very well.

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    1. I admire the courage and the open eyes of this concerned Y13 student! I admire that his will for action to help led him to use words and raised awareness in his own environment. Continue the action! I would suggest to use the letter as a petition, send it by email to everyone and collect signatures, demanding school to condemn and inform about concrete actions its taking to make a better world in this particular situation.

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  4. Clearly, the values the school promotes are as real as the photos of McDonald’s burgers.

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  5. Awesome.

    ‘Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph’

    Haile Selassie

    Ecolint – wake up.

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  6. A big congrats to the update team and the courageous author of this article. The combination of journalistic diligence, critical thinking and insightful student opinion is a testament to the type of education we can be proud of! Well done!

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  7. I’d like to congratulate the team at the Update and the courageous and well- spoken student who submitted this article. The combination of journalistic integrity, diligence in verification of identity and critical thinking are skills I am proud to see exhibited here, and at Ecolint overall. Keep up the great work!

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  8. This is so well argued, well done and keep up your courage and advocacy. A school of this calibre should be a place of principle, not censorship. We are witnessing formative events that will shape this generation’s lives for years to come. Our students can grow into leaders if they can take away the right lessons from this.

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  9. I am afraid I don’t share your thoughts. The school should remain a neutral space where education and children can keep up with a peaceful work and life.
    If the school took a posture this would imply conflict at many levels including students.
    The school learner profile is amongst all a free thinker.
    Research tools as well as skills are given all the way to ensure that children are able to think for themselves.
    The writer of this article is just a prove of this.

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    1. Totally agree with you Mum, from another mum. Democracy is about freedom for respectful speech … discussion and opinion. There are many other conflicts no one bothers to discuss elsewhere too.

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  10. As a school with a mission of peace the silence is deafening. There is no need to take sides in order to condemn violence and war.
    This student is a future leader and should be proud that they have Al taken a stand.
    Ecolint Parent

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  11. Big congratulations to the author of the article, brilliantly written and testimony of profound critical thinking of Ecolint students.
    My recommendation to the students is to keep questioning and expressing, and keep pushing for what they think it is right. In this specific case I agree on the fact that the school should stand up for peace much more clearly and condemn what is not a “conflict” but a barbaric act of violence against humanity, which is the opposite of any human right.
    Ecolint students and staff are intelligent enough to distinguish between Russian population, friends and colleagues, and the immense responsibility of Russian government on this war, because it is a war.
    To the brilliant Ecolint students – you are our future and the future of this world, please keep voicing what is right, do not doubt about Ecolint values, but leverage these values to become better human beings and to build a better future! Thank you very much!

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    1. It’s interesting that the author of this inspiring text and so many of those commenting have chosen to write anonymously. It worries me that this suggests a culture of fear may permeate the Ecolint community, “If I speak up, might my kids be disadvantaged?” This may not be the case and perhaps I’m reading the motivation to write anonymously wrongly but in case there’s an element of it, I wanted to mention my own experience of once speaking out at a large meeting of the community against an Ecolint Board action/policy. It didn’t disadvantage my boys and I was grateful for the freedom to express my opinions and feelings. Beyond the Foundation’s communication around Ukraine, it might be worth exploring if a culture of fear does exist in the Ecolint community. That in itself would be a concern for the Foundation’s future.

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      1. The recent board-staff conflict is another example of this culture of fear. By not unequivocally condemning the Russian regime and by seemingly censoring free discussion, the culture of fear and anonymous commenting will continue to grow.

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  12. Incredibly well-written, massive congratulations to Update team for putting this article up. Thank you for argumenting and keeping the values of freedom of speech alive.

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  13. A thoughtful and well-researched opinion from a student, which is to be applauded. I agree that Ecolint should have been more clear and immediate in issuing a statement to students and the Ecolint community. But however strongly we feel, it is not the role of any school to take a stance on the atrocious actions of the Russian state, but rather to deplore the impact of war on all involved. Ecolint encompasses families and staff with many differing – often opposing and strongly-held – views on politics, religion, ethics, as we are by definition a very diverse community. The school should rightly focus on supporting the international humanitarian response, promoting understanding and compassion for those affected in our community. As parents – as individuals – we should always encourage our kids to get informed, get involved, get as angry as they like about injustice and oppression, and act for change – just not at school (or later, at work) where we all have to live together.

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  14. Ecolint must do a better job of communicating with students and parents about how it will educate students and encourage dialogue about this horrific war at age appropriate levels in line with its guiding statements. So far, really nothing other than simplistic messages about avoiding topic altogether. Ecolint must also show leadership, based on its guiding statements, history and resources, to liaise with parents and students who are so eager to assist and find meaningful ways to coordinate assistance and support for Ukraine and arriving refugees.

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  15. A brilliantly well written and thought provoking article by this courageous student. Silence in a time of war cannot be the action we teach our children nor should the in situation be setting this example for them to follow. The non-reaction from Ecolint goes against the core values that the school stands for. This is disappointing.

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  16. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” probably John Stuart Mill

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  17. I strongly support the stance and opinion of the student writers of the article, “Ukraine has Shown the Limits of Ecolint’s Values.” This should be published in a major paper to help stop ecolint’s misinformation campaign and call attention to its abusive use of education.When a school engages in self-censorship, such as ecolint is engaged in today, it immediately ceases to be an institution of higher learning and free thinking. Willingly, the school becomes part of the propaganda machine.
    Today, ecolin, with what it does and doesn’t say in class, is a mere mouthpiece to a murderous dictator in Moscow. As we know, schools supporting propaganda and/ their silence during WWII helped lead to the death of millions; during China’s Cultural Revolution an approach to censorship in schools similar to ecolint’s, eventually led the deaths of teachers and destruction of culture. If ecolint prohibits free speech (the foundation of learning) on the most pressing issues of our time, and impose the use of cleansed, neutral words “chosen” by the director’s censorship apparatus for students to use to describe murder of civilians, invasion of a sovereign country.
    and war crimes, there can be but one solution: immediately replace the directors (until they are educated) who are aiding and abetting war crimes by spreading misinformation to its students. Censorship has no place inside or outside the walls education. Let our children become graduates, not indoctrinates. Remember Dante’s words, “the hottest place in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crisis preserve their neutrality.”

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  18. An excellent and well-written article, congratulations! Your sharp insights and provoking questions definitely deserve a proper response from the school management. Students are living through an extremely turbulent period of history which will profoundly shape their futures. The school has a responsibility to teach and talk about this in a safe – but fact-based – environment. One way to do this would be to teach about the war from the perspective of international law: the pre-meditated, unilateral invasion of Ukraine by Russia was in blatant violation of international law; and the way the war is being conducted by Russia violates all the norms of international humanitarian law (deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure; indiscriminate, blanket bombing; blocking humanitarian corridors and cutting off essential supplies etc.). There is no space for equivocation, presenting “two-sides of the argument”, or “neutrality” in this context – to do so is false and disingenuous. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

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  19. In Defence of Anonymity:
    Dr Hughes’ attack on a student’s choice to remain anonymous is misdirected, unnecessary, and malicious. The focus should be on the content of the article, not to shame the writer’s right to protect his/her/their self. I hope most students have read, or will read, Orwell’s 1984–it will shed light on Dr. Hughes’ response: “That’s a message to all students: don’t be afraid to stand by your convictions.” Sound like Doublespeak?
    If the directors only had any conviction in the first place, there would be no need for the article to have been written! And it was precisely this article, written by an anonymous writer, that elicited a response (two days later) from Director-General Dr. Hawley: “we must and we do condemn the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian State….”
    Whoever wrote the article, I hope you keep writing. You have talent and courage. Always question authority–anonymously or not. And never allow yourself to be bullied into revealing your identity if you choose to remain anonymous. Think and write freely, that’s what’s important. Some of the greatest works in history were done in the name of anonymity.

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  20. While this is one perspective it is not the only legitimate one. While a country’s sovereignty is sacred and violence is to be condemned in favour of diplomacy and negotiations it is curious why such affronts are so selectively taken. Besides I’d be mindful of conflating international values with western values. This curiously selective outrage is perceived by many as hypocrisy too. Technically 35 countries abstained (comprising half the world’s population) have abstained ;
    Algeria
    Angola
    Armenia
    Bangladesh
    Bolivia
    Burundi
    Central African Republic
    China
    Congo
    Cuba
    El Salvador
    EquatorialGuinea
    India,
    Iran
    Iraq
    Kazakstan
    Kirgistan
    Laos
    Madagaskar
    Mali
    Mongolia
    Mozambique
    Namibia
    Nicaragua
    Pakistan,
    Senegal
    South Africa
    South Sudan
    Sri Lanka
    Sudan
    Tajikistan
    Tanzania
    Uganda
    Vietnam
    Zimbabwe
    Do they not count?
    4 countries ; Belarus, North Korea, Eritrea and Syria voted against the resolution, 12 countries did not vote ; Azerbaijan , Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Morocco, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan & Venezuela
    Believe it or not but there are divergent perspectives and Ecolint is an international school which means there are students from Russia and all the above countries too in the schools and they countries’ stance has to be considered respected too. I fully stand with Mr Hawley’s letter on Ukraine of 11 March and Ms Soraya Saeed Hassan’s response of 18 March as they are appropriate and inclusive respectively.

    Like

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