Peace Education in the schools of Jammu and Kashmir

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Peace Education in the schools of Jammu and Kashmir

By Dr. Kavita  Suri

(Original article: Daily Excelsior.  November 29, 2016)

Peace education, as defined by UNICEF (2009) is “the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behavior change that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural; to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an interpersonal, inter-group, national, or international level.”

Peace education seeks to draw out from people their own best instincts to live more peacefully with others. This implies working from within, starting the transformation of society beginning with each individual. Peace Education, in simple terms, is learning the attitudes, skills and behaviour to live together successfully. Thus, Peace education seeks to build on the philosophy and the processes of nonviolence to help us understand the role that conflict and violence has played in our own lives, seeking ways to transform them. Peace education is also about creating awareness about conflict, train youth in communication skills, providing youth tools to mediate in conflicts, improve social competences, respect and communal harmony, stress reduction among children and youth.

The four key principles of peace education are equitable dialogue, study with application towards societal transformation, holistic analysis of issues and promotion of values. The peace education pedagogy involves broadly direct teaching and modeling of peace education aims and values, critical thinking, Inquiry, Collaborative, Cooperative learning & problem-solving, simulations, discussing multiple solutions to scenarios, envisioning realistic alternatives, opportunities for self-reflection (reflective thinking & writing), community service, exploration, choice, & creativity and engagement in community service and action-oriented problem-solving.

Since past 26 years, the conflict situations prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir have impacted the education sector badly. During the peak of insurgency, a number of school buildings were either damaged or gutted. In these years, many schools have been targeted by the militants. Conflict in J&K is affecting the children’s innocent minds. Many young Kashmiri boys used for stone pelting in 2010, 2012 and in 2016 were  between the age of 13-19 years. Thus there is a dire need to stop the armed conflict in this region besides restructuring the society by equipping the youth in the valley with creative techniques and tools so that they are able to break free from the cycle of violence. The hope for a more peaceful future in the valley lies in strengthening the lost faith in its dynamic and thinking civil society. Thus, peace education is needed for J&K children that can actualize their potentialities in helping them learn how to make peace with themselves and with others, to live in harmony and unity with self, humankind and with nature.

Gandhiji once said, “If we are to reach real peace in this world we shall have to begin with the children.” Therefore there is need to nurture peace in the hearts of children. The education system in J&K comprises of government schools, private schools, army schools, schools run by NGOs and Madrasas. In the past over two decades, there is also an increased radicalization among youth in J&K and polarization within the regions. Keeping in view these developments, education for peace, communal harmony and co-existence is the need of the hour in J&K.

Sadly, No education system exists in J&K that teaches the words of peace to children. Infact, no serious efforts have been taken in the state in the past for imparting peace education to the students. The teachers are not themselves equipped to do so as it need specialized skills and trainings to make the children aware about peace and peace education which can further help in eliminating seed of violence from the society. A major reason for the lack of peace education is that there has been a lack of motivation and action among teachers and planners in Jammu and Kashmir.  In order to introduce the concept of peace within Kashmir’s society, few Community Based Organizations (CBOs), after understanding the need for peace education in J&K, have come forward and taken initiatives and have organized few workshops exploring the possibility of introducing peace education in J&K. But beyond that, no major initiatives has been taken for introducing peace education in J&K schools.

CDR (Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation), a think-tank based in New Delhi, had recognized the need to reach out and engage even the youngest children, preventing the growth of a new generation which is ignorant of peace. It had organized Peace Education and Conflict Resolution Workshops for High School Teachers in Jammu and Kashmir with the objective to train them help students deal with trauma; provide students with extra-curricular activities and sustain their academic interests and orient the concerned educational administrators towards Peace Education curriculum. Before initiating this programme, the CDR had a series of dialogues held with women and educationists in J&K. A major concern of Kashmiri women was that their children were growing up in the atmosphere of violence. After a serious of brainstorming sessions, the CDR and Kashmiri educationists had developed resource material for a peace education training program for school teachers in J&K which could address the local needs expressed by the women and educationists in the state. The programme targeted school teachers across the state and trained them to address and cope with issues of violence, conflict, religion and identity in their classrooms.

Also, South Asia Forum for Human Rights (SAFHR), a Kathmandu-based body organized a Human Rights and Peace Studies Orientation programme in Kashmir. SAFHR held several rounds of discussions with the authorities of the two universities in Kashmir. It had held a three-day workshop with women teachers form Jammu and Srinagar to sensitize the teachers about human rights and peace work. Besides, in an attempt to understand the youth of the area better, another Delhi-based non-profitable organization STEP (Standing Together to Enable Peace) had organized a five day residential camp in Srinagar to train the youth in life skills and in the vocabulary of peace education. The teachers teaching B. Ed programme along with their students were also invited so that they could have a better understanding about their classrooms and witness how innovative pedagogy gives the students a chance to understand their context better in a conflict zone. STEP was also working on a draft for curriculum in Peace Education entitled “Education for Peace: Training of Trainers” for pre-service and in-service teachers which aims at equipping the pre-service teachers in the language of peace that is required in Kashmir to understand a ‘generation in conflict’, as well as to introduce different techniques of communication and pedagogical practices which can help heal a conflict-hit society and instill hope for better future.

The Jammu and Kashmir government which is trying its best to bring the educator sector which suffered badly due to conflict in Kashmir, back to rails, has not been able to do much with regard to imparting peace education in J&K schools. However, as part of the Central government’s flagship of Sarva Shikha Abhiyaan which aims at the universalization of elementary education in India, the government has initiated few steps towards peace education which is a fledgling effort.

What we need is peace education module designed to infuse peace education in formal education curriculum of schools. Schools need to introduce curriculum which should have peace education lessons. Schools need to design school based activities to promote peace. There is need for skills to implement peace education curriculum, conflict resolution and peace mediation. Capability of school teachers has to be enhanced to implement the designed modules. There has to be an emphasis on cooperative learning methods, creation of classroom environments of tolerance, care, and respect, development of lesson plans, in various disciplines, that incorporate peace education philosophies and methodologies.

Education for peace needs to involve envisioning or future thinking, identifying shared values to work together for change, systemic, trans-disciplinary thinking – holistic, integrated, relational, joined-up thinking, to see whole picture, recognize inter relationships & patterns in natural, social & economic systems, to address root causes of complex problems.

Thus, peace education is must in J&K schools. Future generations need us to work together, in a much larger way, to build a significant network and effective strategy to de-escalate violence through education and prevention, at home and abroad. We need the entire society and teachers to work together in J&K who can raise their knowledge and skills, which can recognize themselves as a peace leader, builder and educator and do their best to bring peace to the world, beginning with themselves (modeling peace), their family, their workplace, their community and their country.

(The author is Director and Head, Department of Lifelong Learning, University of Jammu and can be reached [email protected])

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