Illustration by Jess Lucas

War raged all around but in the middle of it stood the school: peaceful and undamaged.

While the bombs dropped and the soldiers fell, the children inside got on with their work. At break time they climbed on to the playground wall to watch the flames and the black smoke coming from the city. They looked up in to the sky and followed the aeroplanes of both sides twist and turn and shoot at each other. Then the bell rang and they all rushed back to their classrooms.

Not a bullet nor a bomb had touched the school. There were no soldiers’ boot prints in the corridors or tank tracks in the playground because neither of the armies fighting the war dared to go anywhere near the school. Children were precious. Knowledge was precious. Learning was precious. It would be unforgivable to destroy that.

War raged all around but in the middle of it stood the school: peaceful and undamaged.

And inside the children were building a huge cardboard model of the war. They were using it to work out how to end the fighting once and for all. When a building in the real world was destroyed, they removed it from the model. When a soldier died they marked the place of death with a black flower. When one side advanced or retreated, they moved a line of string in the right direction and pinned it in its new place.

War raged all around but in the middle of it stood the school: peaceful and undamaged.

The children desperately wanted to stop this war, and they wanted to make sure that it could never start up again. They had very nearly worked out what to do. Their huge cardboard model was almost complete. The armies need fight for only one more day and then the children would have all of the information that they needed. They could tell each side exactly how to make peace with each other. Tomorrow they would make their big announcement!

But just then, the generals in charge of each army were killed and different ones took over. These men thought differently to the previous ones – especially when it came to the school.

The first general decided that the school was of ‘significant strategic importance’ so he ordered his soldiers to take it over. They barged inside, saw the cardboard model, and smashed it.

The second general watched all this through his binoculars and realised that the school had now become a ‘significant strategic threat’ and must be removed.

And that’s what he did, destroying forever the children, the model and their precious knowledge about stopping the war.

War raged all around and in the middle of it stood a small pile of rubble and a few scraps of burned cardboard tumbling around in the breeze.

Questions

  • In 10, 20 or 100 words, what happened in the story?
  • How are children different to adults?
  • What is the purpose of peace?
  • What might the cardboard model be like?
  • Is war ever justified?