Sowing the seeds of peace in Ukraine

A class of children working on the ‘Culture of Good Neighbourhood’ course at their school in Chernivtsi, Ukraine. (Photo: Clémence Buchet–Couzy)

(Reposted from: Quaker Council of European Affairs – QCEA.  December 19, 2019)

By Clémence Buchet–Couzy

QCEA’s Peace Programme Assistant Clémence Buchet–Couzy saw peace education in action on a recent visit to Ukraine, a country which has been defined by violent conflict in recent years. Here’s her account of the experience.

On November 21-23 I was invited to present QCEA’s research and advocacy work on peace education at a workshop on the ‘Culture of Good Neighbourhood’ course, which is being run in education institutions in Ukraine’s in Chernivtsi region. This event was organised jointly by the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science of and the NGO Integration and Development Center for Information and Research (IDCIR).

It was an opportunity to meet and exchange with members of the Peace Education Working Group (PEWG) established by the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflicts (GPPAC), which organised its annual meeting after the workshop.

Before my visit to Ukraine, we translated flyers about QCEA into Ukrainian and Russian so that all the participants would be aware of our work, including our Russian edition of Building Peace Together.

I took part in a panel discussion on “the development of peace education in Ukraine and abroad” alongside two members of the PEWG. The audience seemed very interested by the discussion. Several participants approached me to know more about our work, our Peace Education report and our advocacy towards the EU in this regard. After the panel discussion we distributed over fifty copies of our two reports.

The event offered me a unique opportunity to understand in great details the ‘Culture of Good Neighbourhood’ course and its impact in Ukrainian education. The course has existed for more than 15 years and has since been expanded to neighbouring Moldova. Its aim is to build social and civic competence and tolerance in the broader sense, including ethnic, religious, linguistic, gender and social tolerance. It is designed for children and their parents. Interaction with the parents and the local community are key components of the course.

Through various activities, the children can improve their conflict resolution skills, discover school mediation and negotiation process, or develop their critical thinking. Not only does this help pupils to deal with interpersonal issues, but also introduces ideas like intercultural communication to both children and their parents. The course is part of the formal curriculum, so every child can benefit from it throughout their education.

During this workshop, we visited a school in the region which is implementing this course. I could exchange with the students and their teachers and therefore truly assess the impact of the initiative. It was really interesting to see how such a course is implemented in a country which dominated the headlines a couple years ago due to violence and tensions with Russia.

We also met with some participants of the workshop in order to have a better understanding of the scope of peace education in Ukraine, and talked with peace education practitioners from the Institute for Peace and Common Ground who are working on a pilot project: the ‘Peace School’ model, in partnership with the Ministry of Education, which includes activities such as peer mediation.

After the workshop I participated in the Annual Meeting of the Peace Education Working Group of GPPAC. Several of its members contributed to our Peace Education report, notably by being interviewed for it. I was able to learn more about the activities of the members of the PEWG who all explained their backgrounds and work in peace education.

Their experiences truly highlight the diversity of peace education and its various challenges, depending on the political and social environment in which it is implemented. I shared with the group what we have achieved with our Peace Education project, in particular our cooperation with our sister organisation QPSW, and what we want to achieve in 2020. The exchange was very fruitful; we identified many ways forward for cooperation between projects. It gave me even more motivation and energy to advocate for peace education approaches back in Brussels.

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