(Reposted from: Modern Diplomacy. May 19, 2021)
Across the globe, societal change towards progression and sustainable peace is associated with violent revolutions. Although the argument stands accurate to an extent, non-violent practices carry the capabilities of yielding a similar result. Non-violent practice aspires to gradually modify the mindset of individuals, resulting in the resolution or transformation of conflicts prevalent in society. In this manner, additional efficiency is attained, since large scale suffering is sidestepped.
In the case of Africa, post-colonial states found themselves drenched in conflicts ranging from intranational crisis to inter-ethnic and inter-regional skirmishes. Correspondingly, Africa was subjugated to economic and infrastructural destruction, along with social and mental devastation for individuals. As a result, enormous figures of refugees and internally displaced people requiring shelter, protection, and sustenance emerged, ensuing in global implications. Such factors projected the requirement of critical support for the vulnerable, displaced, and marginalized African community. Notwithstanding, to limit the bloodshed and suffering of the African community, the steps incorporated were non-violent.
To add to the non-violent argument, acclaimed educator Maria Montessori once fittingly stated, “establishing peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war”. Implying how education essentially alters the mindset of individuals and paves a path towards peace. Incorporating education in ensuring a peaceful society falls under the category of non-violent practices, and this very concept was adapted by various states of Africa. As, a meeting of a Ministerial Conference on post-conflict and fragile states was hosted on June 2004, by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA). In the meeting, a communique was signed between 20 African states, and the Inter-Country Quality Node on Peace Education (ICQN-PE) was formed. Under which, the ministers of education in the African states were required to evolve their educational systems into agencies of forces, to promote peace-building, conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and nation-building. As a result, ICQN Peace Education developed a strategic plan to serve as central agencies for cultivating values, attitudes, knowledge, and skills; all of which will contribute to the development of sustainable peace through nonviolence for African individuals, and development in the region of Africa.
With that said, ICQN has classified its goals into distinct categories. Firstly, ICQN Peace Education aims to initiate intra African exchange and dialogue, resulting in, encouragement for sustainable development via the department of education. Likewise, they carry ambitions for the formulating, strengthening, and implementation of Peace Education Policies and Strategies. Subsequently, successful implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of peace education programs shall be ensured. Moreover, ICQN Peace Education’s goal is to initiate Peace Education capacities at all levels of the African community; which will nurture strategic inter-disciplinary, inter-regional, and multi-sectoral partnerships and cooperation with numerous stakeholders. As an effect, effective research will be generated, leading to effective knowledge production. This will lead to informed policy development, resulting in the effective implementation of Peace Education.
The move towards attaining these broad objectives will require the following activities by ICQN Peace Education. Initially, policy dialogue activities will be conducted between the designated ministers of education, and all other relevant stakeholders coming from conflict and crisis impacted areas. In this manner, effective research analysis, documentation, and dissemination of publications and resources shall be conducted. Consequently, a deeper understanding of the conflicts shall arise, and promising practices for peacebuilding through education will be promoted. Moreover, capacity-building initiatives will be directed using affirmative publications and resources, which will be incorporated as tools for effective policy and practice implementation of peace education. Additionally, intra-African exchanges of expertise on peace in education shall be facilitated, resulting in the creation of a network of education actors carrying expertise in peace education from conflict-affected countries. Lastly, civil society actors will be consulted and brought into the policy dialogue process, to ensure that gaps between policy and on-the-ground experience are addressed. Overall, these steps shall ensure effective peace education for sustainable peace in Africa through non-violence.
The input of ICQN peace education can be analyzed through its works in Nigeria. Being the most populous state in the African continent, Nigeria faces several challenges that penetrate in the form of conflicts, ranging from political tensions to religious and tribal violent conflicts. These constituent factors have been negatively influencing the development of the country; as they were left largely unattended. As a result, the occurrence of conflicts was eventually adapted as part of their national culture. Consequently, the current generation has either accepted the conflicts or carries little knowledge on how to resolve them. Thus, the integration of peace education into the curriculums of Nigeria was critical to change and develop the mindset and resulting actions of individuals, and to establish a cohesive and peaceful society through non-violence.
The most critical challenge concerning Nigeria can be regarded as the terrorist activities of a faceless religious group known as “Boko Haram” in Northern Nigeria, and militants’ groups such as “Niger Delta Avenger” and the “Oodua People’s Congress” in the southern region of the Nigerian state. As a whole, these groups affected the overall well-being of the citizens of Nigeria. Terrorism resulted in the radicalization of youth, low literacy rate, unemployment, destruction of infrastructure, and a declining economy. Hence, there was a desperate need to incorporate ICQN Peace Education as part of the national curriculum; since, it would result in the empowerment of the coming generation concerning necessary skills for resolving social issues, and the refrainment from joining extremist organizations. In the Nigerian educational system, Peace Education will train individuals on the avoidance and management of violent conflicts, the establishment of better relationships with fellow beings, unity, and cooperation between various tribes. As a result, prejudice, stereotypes, and hatred for altering groups shall be eliminated, resulting in peaceful/non-violent co-existence.
In the nineteenth century, Harris and Morison (2003) expressed that the basic foundation for social change and reform was induced by schools, churches, and community groups. Hence, with education, the hope for the willingness of students to positively contribute to the development of society shall increase, and so will their disregard for violence and wars. It was conducted that, by raising the consequences of war, the students would develop the ability to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner. Furthermore, the ICQN Peace Education program is highly required in Nigerian primary and secondary schools. In this manner, students will be caught young and their spirit of tolerance will increase. This will equally empower the children with the necessary knowledge of peace and the skills to address the issues without resorting to violence. The teaching of Peace Education will enable the youths to become good citizens that act positively to the nation.
In the Nigerian educational system, the main things embedded according to the non-violent principles of ICQN Peace Education go as follows. Firstly, the students are taught to respect all rights and dignity of fellow human beings. This includes all religions, cultures, ethnicities, and races. The overlying hope through this is to resolve intra state religious, ethnic, and cultural conflicts. Respecting the rights of every individual in society, regardless of their background can reduce conflicts. Adding on, non-violence is promoted along with obtaining justice through convincing and understanding. Through justice, individuals in Nigeria will not have a reason to provoke conflicts or escalate them. Furthermore, sharing and developing attitudes and skills for living together in harmony is promoted, will put an end to exclusion and oppression of certain individuals in the Nigerian society, resulting in cohesiveness. Students are taught to listen and understand by providing everyone with a chance to learn and share with the free flow of information. This shall teach students tolerance and solidarity, and they will appreciate and acknowledge that all individuals in society are unique and different in their way and that everyone has something to contribute to the community regardless of their ethnicity, language, religion, or culture. Furthermore, equality of men and women is taught, ensuring an equal place for men and women in the building of the state. As a result, conflicts penetrating towards gender discrimination shall be acknowledged and will move towards resolution. Lastly, the students are taught that they have a say in the decision-making process of the government and the community they reside in. In this manner, they shall involve themselves in the promotion of toleration and peace in society; as, they will come about the fact that their contribution will matter. To achieve the goal of Peace Education, instrumental delivery that is geared towards developing the basic elements of Peace Education along with the knowledge, skills, and values that go along with promoting the general culture of peace in the students, is required. This will result in the creation of a culture of peace among people.
Although Nigeria is far from obtaining its due share of peace and co-existence in society, the non-violent practice of Peace Education has ensured steps towards that direction.
Although Nigeria is far from obtaining its due share of peace and co-existence in society, the non-violent practice of Peace Education has ensured steps towards that direction. If ICQN’s Peace Education is implemented effectively across all regions of Nigeria, the ultimate goal shall be reached. However, some recommendations to catalyze the process go as follows. Firstly, the training and retraining of teachers should be intensified. In this manner, the teachers shall be enabled to acquire the required skills and knowledge for the use of appropriate techniques and methods, that effectively teach and promote ICQN’s Peace Education. Furthermore, the Social Studies curriculum content should be reduced and a restructuring approach should be adopted. This is because Peace Education may overload the Social Studies curriculum content. Thus, adjustments in other contents should be made accordingly. Lastly, the Social Studies curriculum content as of now in secondary schools should be reviewed. This is because concepts that abide by the concepts of Peace Education should be reflected and identifies. In addition, concepts contradicting those very principles should be removed from the course. As, the contradictions might confuse students; resulting in effective Peace Education.
In conclusion, the Inter-Country Quality Node on Peace Education (ICQN-PE) was established by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), in hopes of initiating non-violent steps to bring about peace, co-existence, and development in the region of Africa, which is filled with intrastate conflicts, concerning religion, ethnicity, religion, etc. One of the states that have effectively initiated ICQN’s Peace Education in Nigeria, and has taken substantial steps towards changing the minds of the coming generation, to make them more tolerant and peaceful. The overlying goal was to alter society without resorting to violence, under which Nigeria and other African states have initiated steps towards that pathway.