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The new school year has started in Beslan – four days later than in the rest of Russia. Three years ago, as children returned to class, terrorists laid siege to the school in the southern Republic of North Ossetia-Alania.
Officially, the school year in Russia begins on September 1. However, in Beslan, after the terrorist attack of 2004 the first day was moved to September 5.
Two new schools were built and opened a year after the Beslan school siege. From the 700 studying in one of the two schools, 400 were held hostages in 2004, and it is still difficult for them to cope with the aftermath of the tragedy.
In order not to put too much stress on children, there will be no classes on September 5 – just an opening ceremony, and the only lesson is the Peace Class which is a chance for children to meet their new teachers, to talk about the world, and walk around the big school building.
Olga Shcherbinina, the school’s Deputy Headmaster, says the building is equipped with modern facilities, including state-of-the-art computer classes. But she points out it’s not technology that matters the most. Most of the children need psychological help.
“The number of pupils keeps increasing every year. The majority of children are from school No. 1 that was attacked. All in all, there are more than 700 school children, over 400 of them are disabled,” she says.
“We’re doing a lot to help our children recover. The Red Cross, the Caritas international organisation and other psychological organisations are working with them on the regular basis. So our main goal is to restore their psychological and moral state as soon as possible,” Olga Shcherbinina adds.
This year a new museum, dedicated to the children who died in the terrorist attack, has been unveiled. In addition to photographs of the children, there are also items that were found in the school after the tragic incident. There are books with bullets in them, dresses torn to pieces, and thousands of letters and condolences that were sent by children from across the world to the children of Beslan.
Since the attack in 2004, security measures across Beslan, and especially in its schools, have been upgraded. Armed guards now patrol the town.
Meanwhile, the investigation into the siege of school No. 1 is still continuing. The building, almost completely destroyed during the violence, will remain in place until the investigation is over. And the school gymnasium, where more than 1,200 hostages were kept for three days, will be preserved. A church will be built on the grounds of the school.