Baghdad falls, but life goes on ...

18th April 2003 at 01:00
Less than a month ago, 12-year-old May McQuade was so strongly opposed to war in Iraq that she and her classmates walked out of school in protest.

Today, the Year 8 pupil at Calder high, in Calderdale, is less militant: "I don't talk about the war much with my friends now. You have to watch the news a lot to know what's happening. I'm not interested in watching the news so much."

Three weeks is a long time in contemporary warfare, especially for a pop-video generation used to immediate gratification. Many former protesters find that current events have been eclipsed by other, more immediate concerns.

Peter Barton, head of the Causeway school, in Eastbourne, said: "Children being children, they get on with their lives. I've not heard any comments about the fall of Baghdad, but it's the end of term, so it's not high on the agenda."

In some cases, it is a conscious choice. Spokey Wheeler, head of Wavell school, in Hampshire, has many children with parents in the forces among his pupils. For them, he says, turning off the news is a coping strategy:

"Humankind cannot bear too much reality. They're exhausted by listening to the broadcasts.

"Their interest is like a series of pulses, that only rise to the surface when a new crisis, such as the fall of Baghdad, develops."

Commentators have compared the fall of Baghdad to other landmark moments in international history, such as the destruction of the Berlin Wall. But while the dramatic, headline-grabbing events in Iraq may attract pupils'

attention, few believe that they will define their generation in years to come.

"The fall of Baghdad is important. It's part of history," said May. "It showed the Iraqis don't like Saddam Hussein. But I don't know if I'll always remember it."

And, for those pupils still involved in anti-war protests, the events in Iraq are merely a backdrop for history in the making at home.

Hannah Kuchler, 16, who organised protests at Camden school for girls, in north London, said: "Yes, the collapse of Baghdad is important, but it's not something we should be celebrating. We killed thousands of people.

"When we look back in history, the anti-war protests will be the place to have been. Being there is much more vital than when the biggest army in the world is victorious.

"I don't think what's happened here will be forgotten."

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