At the recent conference on the role of education to build peace and social cohesion, I interviewed five participants representing five of the GPE partner countries that are just out of conflict or still experiencing fragility due to past conflicts. They explain below how they are using education to build more cohesive and peaceful societies.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Young people can be agents of peace
Jonas Piki-Gwezewane, Coordinator, Technical secretariat, Ministry of education and vocational training, CAR
“In early 2013, when the crisis began, young people from both Muslim and Christian communities were involved in the fighting.
The conflict reached Boda in late 2013. I went there in February 2014 with some NGO colleagues and started to talk to the youth. It was not easy. We talked about their common past: they used to play football together, work together. We told them: “this is your land, this is your home. Your needs are the same.”
We organized a sports club and made sure the teams had players from both communities. We also made sure the youth worked with each other during cleaning activities to clear the rubble from the fighting.
After about 3 to 4 months, some youth leaders emerged. They started talking to their parents and their families about reconciliation. In late 2014, members of parliament and ministers travelled to Boda to support our action.
When I went back about a month ago, I was really impressed: the barrier between the 2 communities was gone, and now I could see the communities interacting with each other, living together. The young people told me “only concertation can rebuild this country”.
Now the ministry of education is using this approach in other towns across the country to help rebuild our country.”
LIBERIA: Rebuilding peace starts with the youngest children
Dweh Miller, Coordinator of the Peacebuilding Education and Advocacy program (PBEA), Ministry of Education, Liberia
“Our Ministry of Education realized that to systematically address the issue of conflict in our country, we needed to begin with the youngest students: preschoolers.
Under the peacebuilding program, we have developed an early childhood curriculum that is conflict sensitive, through partnership with OSIWA among others. We also have a user guide for teachers, which contains information on human rights, citizenship education, and other peacebuilding concepts.
Secondly, the PBEA has produced “The Liberian Child Friendly Teacher Handbook”, which is intended to eradicate child abuse, particularly in schools, improve the learning environment and teacher-student relationships, and enhance learning outcomes with the participation of parents and communities.
“Sara and the Plum Tree Palaver” is another milestone of PBEA. It is a peacebuilding comic book developed and contextualized for use in Liberian schools. The book has been tested in 20 schools in two counties.
The PBEA has also supported two sub-programs: the Junior National Volunteers (JNVs), whose work is primarily to build peace and enhance social cohesion in host communities, and the National Volunteers (NVs), who are young college graduates contributing to human resource capacity of government agencies in different professional areas.
We have to be mindful that sustainability for these programs should be built in from the start, with a strong commitment from the government to play its part. Otherwise when donor funding and external support run out, the gains can’t be maintained. It’s like building a house without a foundation.”
RWANDA: Including peace education in the curriculum
Solange Mukayiranga, Director General of education planning, Ministry of Education, Rwanda
“After the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, the Government of Rwanda took on as a priority to build a peaceful society through the education system.
Rwanda has developed a new competency-based curriculum that will be implemented over three years, starting from February 2016.
Peace education has been integrated in the new curriculum as a cross-cutting course into all subjects from pre-primary to secondary school. The cross-cutting issues cover genocide studies and peace and values education. This is included as standalone syllabus units in social studies for primary education, history and citizenship in ordinary level, and general studies and communication skills in advanced level.
To implement the curriculum, teachers are being trained. This is a long term investment, as teachers play a key role in building a peaceful society: students believe in what teachers say.”
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Sensitizing the whole society to be good citizens
Valere Munsya, Coordinator of the technical support unit, Ministry of primary and secondary education and vocational training, DRC
“In Congo, we are integrating peacebuilding activities during the implementation of our sector plan. Because we can’t implement this strategy that took us a long time to develop without taking conflict into account. The east of the country still experiences problems, and many children still don’t go to school because of it.
Beyond education, we continue our reflection because school isn’t the only place where children learn. They also learn on the way to school and they learn in their families. So in all these places, we must ensure effective peace education.
About a year ago, the ministry of basic education has taken on a new activity: initiation to new citizenship. Through the curriculum, and people who can be role models, we want to teach children and all Congolese citizens to love their country, because if they grow up loving their country, they won’t want to destroy it.”
South Sudan: learning in local languages to create social cohesion
Michael Lopuke, Principal Secretary, Ministry of Education, South Sudan
“Peacebuilding is one of our main objectives. Our country has been at war for a long time, so it was important for us to include peace education in the curriculum, which we just finished revising.
In South Sudan, we have 64 different ethnic groups. Our curriculum includes teaching mother languages during the first three years of primary school. So children from a specific ethnic group and any other children who may be living in the same area learn the same language. This creates a sense of togetherness, since language unites us all. That’s one example of how the curriculum helps to forge one identity.
We must create reconciliation among the various groups, and confidence among citizens that they can live together in peace and build a prosperous nation.”
To learn more, you can access the various presentations and materials from the conference.