Omagh's healers

21st August 1998 at 01:00
The shocking events in Omagh have, for many of us, dominated not only the past week's news but our emotions and imaginations. As catastrophes do, they have also had the effect of throwing us back on our basic values. A-level results matter, sure; but Omagh puts them into perspective.

Such events also cast a fresh light on to schools and the people in them. When chaos reigns, the local school becomes a symbol of stability and decency. Repeatedly, on the television news, we saw Omagh's headteachers - themselves often racked with anxiety about relatives - speaking of pupils or past pupils killed or maimed. As viewers, we knew we could rely on them for wise words, heartfelt but controlled emotion, and a balanced overview.

At a time when schools are often condemned for not delivering high enough educational standards, we need to remind ourselves of their importance in providing the social glue which binds so many communities together. Even in the most difficult circumstances, they continue to embody enduring values: co-operation, compassion, perseverance and self-control.

Children are the future, we know. The teachers of Omagh (to an extent which will almost certainly go unrecognised) will play a key role in healing their community.

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