Teachers: Agents of Peace Building in the Conflict Zones

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Teachers: Agents of Peace Building in the Conflict Zones

Dr. Swaleha Sindhi

(Original article: Greater Kashmir. May 23, 2016)

Introduction

In conflict-affected situations education is about more than service delivery because 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. The very purpose of education goes beyond the propagation of knowledge. Building peace is, thus, seen as a transformative process that seeks to establish sustainable peace by addressing the root causes of violent conflict. It proposes a holistic process of peace building that concerns entire societies and the individuals within them (Lederach and Maise 2009). In this process of transformation, teachers are seen as peace-builders that teach children how to live together in peace by overcoming prejudice within and between individuals and communities. In conflict societies students suffer from emotional despair, low self-esteem, lack of cultural connectivity and a loss of values. Teacher as agents of peace building are understood in relation to their capacity to influence their conflict-driven surroundings. It is their ability to think, feel and act in order to foster “values and attitudes that offer a basis for transforming conflict itself” (Novelli and Smith 2011). Teachers in their act as agents of change, teach the skills required for civic participation and employment. These competencies are particularly relevant in the conflict zones, which have histories of conflict, where structural inequalities persist and where youth have participated in violence. In such places, teachers hold the potential to assist peace-building in important ways.

Pedagogical Skills and Strategies for Teachers 

The National Curriculum Framework for School Education 2000 states that values of peace education must be integrated into all aspects of education including teacher training, curriculum, teacher student relationships and examinations. It further states that peace education is a way of making all the subjects in the curriculum peace oriented.  The framework prescribed an integrative approach. The integrated approach occurs when all the activities of the school, curricular as well as co-curricular, are geared toward education for peace. At the classroom level, peace dimensions are woven into the contents of the lessons, which are treated also as means of helping students to imbibe peace values. Here, emphasis is not merely on acquisition of knowledge but also on the process through which peace is achieved. The peace opportunities latent in the curriculum, can be maximized when total school environment is oriented towards peace. 

Teachers must realise the fact that their goal is much more than completion of syllabus and conducting examination. There are several children in conflict zones who know about armed conflict from direct experience of it. This makes it far more important for the teachers to use active learning methods and to be effective in managing the emotional climate and understanding. Teachers must realise that learning occurs in an atmosphere of trust that paradoxically builds the freedom to challenge and contradict. Teacher sensitivity is thus needed to ensure imbibing needed values among the students in conflict societies.

Teachers with reflective discussions can deepen understanding and give greater meaning to the concepts. Improving students’ powers of analysis and developing their understanding will depend on the more discriminating educational use of the activities. They must create appropriate learning experiences for students by involving students in discussion, debates, presentation, and group and cooperative projects, this way some peace values may be more appropriately inculcated.  The teacher can go for role –plays and encourage the exploration of different viewpoints through role-reversals, and challenge the children to create different endings, or ask judicious questions about the feelings of other characters. Thus in the briefing and the ensuing discussions any relevant concept can be taught.

While specific pedagogies have been identified as peacebuilding or conflict sensitive practices the role of the teacher in evaluating and modifying them to their context is important, and teacher education can develop these skills in how it approaches the teaching of pedagogy. (Bush and Salterelli 2000).  Furthermore, conflict analysis must become an important part of teacher education as not only are candidates required to understand their own experiences in relation to the conflict, they are expected to be aware of multiple perspectives and develop context sensitive and learner appropriate classrooms and pedagogies. To address such issues there must be special mechanisms for capacity building for teacher’s self-improvement, ethical dilemma and emotional capacities of the teachers in conflict zones. Though there are multiple programs and workshops conducted by State Boards of Education and NGOs for teacher training, but a greater impact needs to re-frame an inclusive education policy and apply it as an instrument of peacebuilding in these regions. 

Conclusion

Schools are potential nurseries for peace as school education involves the formative years in a person’s life, and help to build a strong foundation. Due to rising conflicts it is very important that there is a growing awareness that propagate a culture of peace through education. Since education for peace is to be integrated into the curriculum, much depends on the availability of adequate instructional time to teachers to practice this integration. Education for peace calls for a vastly different approach to teaching as compared to what is in practice now. Teachers have to be creative, innovative, and enterprising in their pedagogic approach, all of which can be suppressed if teachers are overburdened or underpaid. We need an education that does not convey the message of imposition, overt or covert but promotes the emotional integration of the people.

Dr. Swaleha Sindhi is Assistant Professor in the Department of Educational Administration, The M.S.University of Baroda, Gujarat

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