Peace by Piece: Mainstreaming Peace Education in South Asia

Learning and Recommendations from Afghanistan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka

© 2010 Save the Children

Written by: Manish Thapa, Raj Kumar Dhungana, Bhuvaneswari Mahalingam, Jerome Conilleau

Background

Peace education is a Human Right (Hague Appeal for Peace)

Ideally, schools are places where children can safely develop their physical and intellectual capacities, learn values and socialize with other children. School should be where children learn to celebrate diversity. Sadly, schools sometimes become the settings where violence, stereotypes, stigma and social gender norms permeate the minds of children.

The recurrent armed conflicts and disasters in South and Central Asia prevent schools from being that safe environment for children. Some of the negative impacts of these conflicts and disasters include interruptions of courses, attacks on teachers and pupils, schools as places where child soldiers are recruited, and utilization of the school as temporary shelter for refugees. The schools also become in these particular contexts settings where ideologies, violence and spirit of revenge contribute to further deprive children of their fundamental right of freedom of thought and growth in peace.

Most of the countries in South Asia have been through armed conflicts and are now facing the challenge of building sustainable peace. This necessitates initiatives to promote peace education as a universal right. Over the last years, Nepal has emerged as a pioneer in implementing a comprehensive programme on peace education, involving a wide range of stakeholders including children themselves under the leadership of the Ministry of Education.

Achieving more with less through sharing and applying best practice

In Nepal, after a decade of internal conflict and following the Comprehensive Peace Accord in 2006, the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, UNESCO and Save the Children came together for peace education. Among the key achievements, the Nepal four-year Peace Education programme mainstreamed peace, human rights and civic education in formal (primary) and non-formal curricula, developed peace education materials in hundreds of child clubs, reaching nearly 55,000 children, and designed peace education modules for pre-service teacher training.

Each one in its role

Save the Children Sweden Regional Office facilitated cross-sharing experiences between Nepal and other country offices in the region that showed interest in the pioneering experience of Nepal. Among them, the Afghanistan and Pakistan education teams carried out a mapping of national peace education initiatives and Sri Lanka developed a national level programme on peace education. Save the Children in Nepal and Save the Children Sweden Regional Office jointly supported the country teams in Afghanistan and Pakistan to organize a national consultation on peace education with the key stakeholders and facilitated the visit of the Sri Lanka Peace Education team to Nepal to hear from their experience and receive guidance on how to plan their programme.

The Peace Education Programme Coordinator of Save the Children in Nepal & Bhutan along with the SCS Regional Office Education Manager developed the conceptual framework for the mapping of national peace education initiatives, and co-organized and facilitated the in-country national consultations and the visit of the Sri Lanka education team to Nepal.

Coming together and developing a common understanding

During the consultations, it was realized that many organizations and many agencies, including donor agencies, are doing a lot of work to promote peace education but had never properly linked and collaborated together.

The main outcomes of the consultations were, first, sharing information and experiences, and developing a common understanding on peace education. A task group was also identified to move forward the agenda of peace education with government, INGOs and donors. In Pakistan, a Peace Education Working Group was created; and in Afghanistan, peace education was integrated into the Education Development Board.

The national consultations further revealed that many actors, including donors, are already implementing or funding peace education programmes without mentioning peace education. The consultations revealed as well the lack of coordination and sharing of information among the current peace education initiatives: in the cases of both Afghanistan and Pakistan, the national consultation was the first opportunity for the participants to sit and discuss this issue, though most of them are facing the same challenges and have the same need for a common agenda and strategy that would make their own initiatives more powerful and meaningful.

Peace education in South and Central Asia – challenges and opportunities

Existing opportunities for peace education in South Asia

In the course of analysing the country studies, several opportunities that can be used to advance the peace education agenda in South Asia were identified as follows:

  • Most of the countries in South Asia have recognized the important role that quality education and peace have to play.
  • Almost all countries seem to have recognized the importance of peace education as a key component of their education systems, as the existing curricula all show presence of some of its elements in the form of human rights, civic education, citizenship education, etc.
  • The amount of work that has already been done by the civil society organizations in the area of peace education gives a leverage which can serve as an entry point to the proposed programmes.
  • Experience shows that many peace education initiatives are ongoing in countries with armed conflicts or post-conflict countries, and this applies to most of the countries in South Asia.

Challenges

There are several factors which were identified as possible challenges for the implementation of peace education at national level:

  • Low prioritization of peace education from governments in each country of South Asia.
  • Weak coordination and collaboration between different stakeholders including government agencies, donors, INGOs, NGOs and schools for implementation of peace education programmes.
  • Unclear goals and objectives and non-replicable methodologies in most of the NGOs/INGOs conducting peace studies.
  • Inappropriate or non-comprehensive peace education curricula not adapted to the local needs.
  • Limited participation of vulnerable sections of the population such as children and women.
  • Inadequate national acceptance and formal recognition from the Education Ministry of peace education.
  • The limited number of peace studies departments and research on peace education required to build greater knowledge and capacities on peace education within the South Asian region.
  • Peace education methodology, which emphasizes cooperative learning, child participation, etc., is constrained by traditional learning methods which promote competition among learners through grading.
  • The results of peace education programmes will only be seen in the long term and are difficult to measure.

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