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Floral tributes...Waimate High School students view the flowers left at Waimate's vigil ceremony on Monday evening. PHOTO:SUPPLIED

by Chris Tobin

From observing minutes of silence to writing letters of support, South Canterbury schools have rallied in response to the terrorist attack at two Christchurch mosques last Friday that left 50 dead and dozens more injured.

“We had a whole school assembly on Monday as we felt it was important to reconnect as a community after the emotional weekend that we have had as a country,” Timaru Girls’ High School acting principal Deb Hales said.

“As New Zealanders we must treat each other with compassion, kindness and acceptance regardless of ethnicity, race or religion.”
– Waimate High School principal Janette Packman

“We sang the national anthem and our school waiata He Kura Aroha – our school of love and compassion.

“We finished the assembly off by quoting Jacinda Ardern’s phrase: ‘This is not who we are’ and all saying our school karakia together.

“We acknowledged the amazing work of so many support workers, policemen and women, hospital and ambulance staff and 1737 support-line volunteers.”

She said the school flag would fly at half mast all week “in recognition of a sense of unity and respect for the Muslim community and for the great sense of loss we are all feeling”.

Roncalli College principal Chris Comeau said they recited a prayer at a special school assembly “for our Muslim brothers and sisters”.

“We spoke about the need for tolerance and acceptance in New Zealand’s increasingly diverse society.

Offering support . . . Roncalli College students have been writing messages of support for the Muslim community and people of Christchurch. Helping the project are Ryan Brosnahan, left, Grace Kelliher, Nick Manson, and Bridgette Johnson. PHOTO:CHRIS TOBIN

“It has been amazing to see the outpouring of love and support around the whole world for the Muslim community in Christchurch and that is the hopeful message we want our students to understand. Love is stronger than hate.”

He said many pupils wrote letters and messages of support to the Muslim community in Christchurch which would be posted at the end of the week.

Opihi College principal Tina Johnson said on the advice of psychologists, senior staff advised teachers to allow pupils to talk about the tragedy as they needed to.

“We’re aware everyone has their own story to tell.

“Some students have spoken about having attended the vigil at Caroline Bay on Sunday, saying this helped them feel they were contributing support.”

Timaru Boys’ High School rector Nick McIvor said on the school’s Facebook page a special assembly was held which included a minute’s silence for the victims. The school was working to support boys who might be upset by what had happened.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims, and those who survived but are now traumatised by this atrocity. We pull together as a people and remain true to the positive values that make New Zealand what it is.”

Words of support . . . Waimate High School pupils wrote messages which were made into a wreath and presented at Waimate’s vigil service. PHOTO:SUPPLIED

Waimate High School principal Janette Packman said a special assembly was held which included a minute’s silence, and pupils wrote messages of support to the people of Christchurch which were made into a wreath.

“This was presented by our prefects at the Waimate community vigil that was held on Monday night.

“Our message to students was that the terrorist attack was an unprecedented act of violence, the kind of violence that we think of happening in other countries and not in New Zealand; that this is not the Kiwi way and it is important for us all to reach out and support one another.

“As New Zealanders we must treat each other with compassion, kindness and acceptance regardless of ethnicity, race or religion.”

Mackenzie College pupils arranged a special assembly at the school yesterday in support of the victims which was open to the public.

Some schools have also posted advice on how to deal with the tragedy, stating counselling and support are available.