NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 21: Actor and Sustainable Development Goals Advocate Forest Whitaker speaks at a UN Press Briefing at United Nations on April 21, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images)

Education Is the Key to Breaking the Cycle of Violence

In this opinion article published at TIMES Ideas, Forest Whitaker and Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO argue that education must rise on the agenda of peace building, and to unlock education’s potential to nurture peace, we must support inclusive education systems that reach out to all groups and that teach human rights and new forms of global citizenship. We need to get this right to allow societies to escape the nightmares of history, to give young people every chance.

Teachers: Agents of Peace Building in the Conflict Zones

Dr. Swaleha Sindhi suggests that in conflict-affected situations education is about more than service delivery; it is a means of socialization and identity development through the transmission of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes across generations. Education may therefore be a way of contributing to conflict transformation and building peace.

Anti-Bullying, Peace Education Needed “Now More than Ever”

For veteran educator Molly McCloskey, whose career has been spent advocating for the needs of the whole child, being asked by Operation Respect founder Peter Yarrow to take over the reins of the organization was “an amazing and humbling experience.” “There is no question that anti-bias, anti-bullying, peace education is needed now more now than ever,” she said. “We’ve learned so much about mental health and the damage of trauma and bullying—and how it impacts kids over time. The true extent of trauma has been revealed after years of researching its effects.”

A Yemeni girl walks past soldiers on her way to school during the conflict (Photo: Human Rights Watch)

Education as a tool for building sustainable peace

In his “Agenda for Humanity” vision for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon set forth five core responsibilities of global leaders to end human suffering and recognize our common humanity. It is clear that we can achieve none of the five core responsibilities without education – but for now let’s focus on education’s impact on core responsibility number one: to “Prevent and End Conflict.”

A World at School has been joined by a number of leading education organizations in recent months in highlighting the ways in which the right to education is threatened during emergencies, conflicts and protracted crises. Education is one of the first things sacrificed in an emergency – it is under-prioritized and under-funded. In 2015 alone, 80 million children and adolescents had their education disrupted due to crises and disasters, yet only 1.4% of all humanitarian aid went to education. Another side of the coin, however, reveals that education is not merely another casualty of emergencies but has the potential to be a very powerful tool for building sustainable peace and preventing future violence.

When extremism stalks the students: Educational solutions to India’s conflict zones

Perhaps the most telling effect of violent extremism is the disruption of education, from primary to college level. A recent report released by the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace, entitled ‘India’s youth speak out about higher education’, consolidates the opinions of over 6,000 students from all over the country. Students from conflict affected regions frequently brought up early experiences that affected their ability to succeed in – or even get admitted to – college. These students said they had not been able to attend primary school for years at a time, leaving them unprepared for the rigors of higher education. This trend was borne out by our survey. Approximately 12.4% of survey respondents attributed their lack of enrollment in higher education to “social unrest at their native place”.

The Case of Education for Peace in Mexico

(2013 – Transcend Media Service) At the national level an overarching program to prevent violence has been designed and enacted in Mexico. It is a bold proposal, grounded in a legitimate peace philosophy –one in which peace is constructed through the satisfaction of basic human needs- and is well equipped in scope and with enough budget and personnel to achieve transcending results by construction of peace infrastructures and the buildup of a mediation-dialogue-conciliation culture that had been floating in the air for some years but is now becoming a very concrete way of life not only in scholarly circles but also in civil society and government.

This top-down approach is then linked with efforts bottom-up from the ground level in the different regions. The State of Mexico –a region of the country- is a formidable example of how peace education can be better served by summing up efforts in all directions from NGOs to government to individual commitments. Under the overarching umbrella of a project called Programa para una Convivencia Escolar Armónica (Program for a Harmonious Coexistence in School) thousands of school teachers, parents and tens of thousands of students are getting acquainted not only with strategies on how to deal with bullying but also on a wide range of conflict transformation techniques for everyday conflicts in all domestic contexts.

Restorative Justice: Restorative of Right Relationships, of Community

What if we were to redefine our concept of justice, to rethink it? This is not difficult to envision when it comes to teen petty theft, but in violent offenses it is much more difficult. The goal of restorative justice is a restoration of right relationships, sometimes through restitution, sometimes through talking, and a restoration of community. Perhaps an illustration from Africa would help our nation reformulate ideas of justice. After the genocide in Rwanda and Barundi, many perpetrators of the violence were put in prison. A few years ago, when they were about to be released, the community was worried that the survivors would retaliate—an eye for an eye. That is when the program Healing and Rebuilding our Communities was born.

Promotion of peace through textbooks – Pakistan

South East Asian states, particularly Pakistan, is still entangled in the conflicts of past. The Pakistani textbooks are still being used to project a biased and stereotypical view of the world in the minds of students. Many textbooks of social studies, Pakistan studies and languages carry the propaganda of hate, jihad and militarism. As a classroom practitioner and educational researcher, Shafqat Hussain Soomro has found that books of social studies and Pakistan studies are one of the main sources to disseminate seeds of hate and violence in the minds of students against regional neighbours and other religions.

Through Peace Education, Youth Can Become Vanguards of Peace in the Great Lakes Region

Over the past five decades, youth have played a central role in the numerous violent conflicts that have afflicted the African Great Lakes Region. The existence of deeply entrenched stereotypes based on ethnicity or nationality has been a key impediment for the prospects of peace. These stereotypes, marinated over the decades, have long been internalised by local communities and have regrettably been handed down to successive generations. We have a strong conviction that peace education offers the promise of nurturing a new generation of youth into vanguards of peace in the Great Lakes Region. It is on this premise that the ICGLR and Interpeace will bring together key stakeholders from the region to a Peace Education Summit in Nairobi on 3 – 4 March 2016.

Educar para la paz: mucho más que una cátedra (Colombia)

De cara al posconflicto, la pregunta sobre el papel de la educaciónha estado presente en diversos ámbitos, tanto académicos como mediáticos. La primera reacción de nuestros legisladores siempre ha sido proponer cátedras: de convivencia, prevención de acoso escolar, protección del agua, del páramo… y ahora de la paz. Esto evidencia la poca o nula reflexión sobre el rol de la escuela en diálogo con la normatividad vigente y los retos de la sociedad actual, además de un gran desconocimiento de los problemas de fondo del sector educativo.

Impacts of the Privatization of Public Education

The political economy of public sector failure is wholly ignored when schools are declared failing and threatened with closure. Further, parents, guardians, community members, educators, and youth are systematically excluded from decisions to close schools and plans to redesign their replacements. The cover story about saving communities from educational crisis grows a bit suspect when the very communities presumably being saved are kept out of the process–and their children are often denied admission to the replacement schools.

Working for world peace here at home

David Smith suggests that to hope and pray for peace, though showing good intentions, will not prevent the tragedies we might face. Though most are not connected to efforts that focus directly on preventing violence, everyone can work for world peace in 2016. He suggests five things everyone can do to work for peace: learn about conflict, engage and share, model peace, identify and use peaceful means, and support good policies.

British army cadets at Sandhurst. The Ministry of Defence spends an estimated £26m each year on combined cadet force units. (Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Children have no place in the British army

As the UK armed forces continue with their policy of targeting visits disproportionately to schools in deprived areas and children from low-income families, the Department of Education ignores the UN’s recommendations that some form of peace education should be part of the curriculum in UK state schools, and supports initiatives encouraging a military ethos.

How Our Naive Understanding of Violence Helps ISIS

(Original article: Paul K. Chappell, Counterpunch.org, Dec. 10, 2015) At West Point I learned that technology forces warfare to evolve. The reason soldiers today no longer ride horses into battle, use bows and arrows, and wield spears, is because of the gun. The reason people no longer fight in trenches, as they did during World […]

Rosie Batty: ‘I praise education ministers for recently including respectful relationship education in the Australian curriculum.’ Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

By teaching children, we can change the culture of violence against women (Australia)

(Original article: Rosie Batty, The Guardian, Dec. 2, 2015) Given the choice to go back to when Luke was alive is a question I wouldn’t have to consider for more than a split second. I would give anything to hold him again, to laugh with him, to tell him he’s an amazing, albeit cheeky, young […]

A Peacebuilding Approach to Teaching About Extremism

(Original article: David J. Smith, Huffington Post, Dec. 2, 2015) The recent attacks in Paris and elsewhere remind us of the global instability that we often take for granted. The events have now settled into our subconscious, and we and the news cycle have moved along. But for youth who might have limited experience with […]

I Have Never Punished My Child – Parenting for a Nonviolent World

(Original article: Anahata Giri, TRANSCEND Media Service, Nov. 30, 2015) I have never punished my child. This is not because I have some kind of freaky perfect child. My 8-year-old son is a normal child who engages with the world with a natural childlike intensity. This means he sometimes challenges boundaries by doing what he wants […]