Winter 2023

The Resonating Ripples: How the Gaza War Impacts High School Students in Canada

The Gaza conflict – a longstanding and complex issue – reverberates across the globe, touching lives and leaving a lasting impact far beyond its geographical boundaries. In Canada, a nation known for its cultural diversity, high school students are not immune to the far-reaching implications of the Gaza war. While situated thousands of miles away from the heart of the conflict, they experience its ripple effects on their lives, both inside and outside the classroom. In this article, we will explore the profound impact of the Gaza war on high school students in Canada, shedding light on their emotions, perspectives, and the educational responses that shape their experiences.

Emotional Turmoil and Stress

In addition to war, the events in Gaza are a humanitarian crisis, marked by suffering and loss. For high school students in Canada, witnessing images and stories of the conflict can evoke intense emotions, ranging from sadness and anger to helplessness. The distressing scenes from Gaza, amplified through media coverage and social networks, can lead to emotional turmoil. This can affect a student’s ability to concentrate on their studies, leading to decreased academic performance. It may create a sense of hopelessness, as they grapple with the enormity of the crisis and their inability to directly influence events so far from their reach.

Heightened Awareness of Global Issues

The Gaza war serves as a catalyst for heightened awareness of global issues among high school students in Canada. These young individuals, exposed to the harsh realities of war and conflict, often express a desire to understand the complexities of the situation. This increased awareness can lead to a broader understanding of international relations, human rights, and the implications of conflict on a global scale.

Educators can seize this opportunity to facilitate discussions and debates, encouraging students to critically analyze and discuss the factors contributing to the Gaza conflict. This not only enhances their global awareness but also develops their critical thinking skills.

Empathy and Compassion

As students become more aware of the suffering in Gaza, they often experience heightened levels of empathy and compassion. This can extend to fellow students, friends, or family members who have a direct connection to the region. In these instances, students may feel compelled to support relief efforts, engage in fundraising, or advocate for peace and humanitarian intervention.

Empathy and compassion, when channeled constructively, can be a powerful force for positive change. Counsellors and educators can encourage students to participate in charitable activities, further strengthening their commitment to global issues.

Challenges for Students with Personal Connections

Some students have personal connections to the Gaza conflict which may be family members, friends, or acquaintances living in the region. For these individuals, the war becomes a deeply personal issue, impacting their daily lives and emotional well-being.

The anxiety and worry for the safety of loved ones can be overwhelming. For those directly affected, they may experience sleep disturbances, increased stress levels, and difficulty concentrating on their studies. Providing a support system that includes counselling services and a flexible academic environment, would help them navigate these challenging circumstances.

Diversity and Inclusion

Canada is celebrated for its cultural diversity, and many high school students in the country have connections to regions impacted by global conflicts. The Gaza war can serve as a backdrop for conversations on cultural diversity, inclusion, and the importance of respecting and appreciating different perspectives and backgrounds.

We can use the conflict as an opportunity to promote understanding and inclusivity. By fostering an open and respectful environment, counsellors and educators alike can encourage students to embrace diversity, and challenge stereotypes and biases.

Interactions and Discussions

Not unlike what we’re seeing around the world, the Gaza war can fuel discussions and debates among high school students in Canada. Some may engage in conversations about the conflict with their peers, leading to a diversity of perspectives and opinions. These conversations can be highly enlightening and can help students develop critical thinking and communication skills.

As a counsellor, facilitate these discussions by providing a platform for students to express their viewpoints, ask questions, and engage in constructive dialogue. These conversations may lead to a deeper understanding of the complexities of the situation, as well as an appreciation for the diversity of perspectives.

Educational Responses

Canadian schools, counsellors and educators play a vital role in responding to the impact of the Gaza war on high school students. It is essential to provide a structured and supportive environment that acknowledges the emotional toll these global events can have on students.

Such educational responses can include (but aren’t necessarily limited to):

  • Mental Health Support: offer counselling services and resources for students dealing with emotional distress related to the conflict.
  • Global Studies Curriculum: speak to colleagues about the integration of global studies and discussions on international conflicts into the curriculum, helping students better understand the world around them.
  • Open Dialogue: Encourage open dialogue and discussions about the Gaza conflict, allowing students to express their thoughts and concerns in a safe and supportive environment.
  • Promotion of Tolerance and Inclusivity: actively promote tolerance, respect, and inclusivity, reinforcing the importance of embracing diversity.
  • Support for Charitable Initiatives: Encourage and support students who wish to engage in charitable initiatives, raising funds and awareness for humanitarian causes.

The impact of the Gaza war on high school students in Canada is a testament to the interconnectedness of our world. While physically distant from the conflict, these students experience its emotional and educational consequences. Educators, families, and society as a whole must recognize the emotional toll, heightened awareness, and opportunities for empathy, tolerance and education that the Gaza war can bring to the lives of high school students.

By fostering an environment that acknowledges their feelings, provides support, and encourages constructive discussions, we can help Canadian teenagers channel their empathy, compassion, and newfound awareness into positive actions that contribute to a more peaceful and just world. The Gaza conflict is a sobering reminder that global events can touch lives in the most unexpected places, and it is our collective responsibility to guide students through the complex emotions and challenges that arise as a result.

By: Lindsay Taylor