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Last Updated: 11/03/2008Training Cameroon's Educators to be Peacemakers
Key words: peacebuilding skills, peace education, Cameroon school system, conflict resolution, conflict management, mututal understanding and tolerance, pedagogy.
Education is a process in which improved relationships is the outcome. More often than not we expect remarkable changes in terms of our behavior, attitudes, and values. But these characteristics can not be attained without a good education and training. Conflict affects everyone. For some, conflicts may cause internal struggles, sometimes causing them to turn to drugs, alcohol, or to drop out from school or abandon their jobs.
The Cameroon educational system is rubbed by many conflicting situations. This is because those responsible for the day-to-day function of the schools are ill-equipped to handle conflict situations. Both the school leaders and teachers lack the knowledge and skills necessary to improved relationship between students and teachers. Fortunately for Cameroon, conflict management skills can be taught and learned. The overall tone of the schools have often been characterized by conflicts. Consequently our schools have become unsafe places for learning. In our schools today, one can identify four important types of conflicts: Controversy; Conceptual conflicts; Conflicts of interest; and Development conflicts (Johnson, 2003). These conflicts are a barrier to school improvement and achievement. The above types of conflict can be address if the educators are trained in conflict resolution, transformation, and in peacebuilding skills. Training teachers in peacemaking will not only improve achievement in schools but the community as a whole.
Training educators to be peacemakers is in fulfillment of the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, (2001-2010), as schools are part of the global movement for a culture of peace: “Peacemaking requires at least as much courage, imagination, patience, and strategic planning as war making. It goal is nonviolent relations not only between teachers and students but also between all human beings” (True and Adams, 1997). UNESCO, acting as the lead agency for the Decade, encourages the appropriate authorities to provide education in elementary schools that include lessons in mutual understanding, tolerance, active citizenship, human rights, and the promotion of a culture of peace. However the training for the development of these values must begin with educators before it proceeds to students. Promoting a culture of peace is not possible without the most important actors needed for the change.
The culture of peace reflects new ways of looking at and thinking about old problems and new ways of resolving them. For a culture of peace to be particularly relevant, the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), made up of researchers, teachers and activists, met for an international conference in 1994 and proposed guidelines for training for educational institutions. According to the conference, it was propose that: (a) educators and student be trained in conflicts resolution and mediation skills extending to the wider community; (b) linking school and community activities that promotes everyone’s participation in culture and development; (c) incorporating information into curricula about movements for liberation and peace; (d) extending a sense of community not only to all people but also to all forms of life in order to preserve the earth’s ecology; and (e) reviewing and renovating the history curriculum in order to give as much emphasis to the role of women as is given to men, and nonviolent movements as is given to military campaigns.
Peacebuilding exists through the work of individuals and governments that persist in their efforts to build it. Training educators as peacemakers will empower them with the skills, values and content of a peacemaking pedagogy: “Conflict arise in our schools because of some mismatch between social values and social structures of the school” (Burton, 1969). To address these flaws, educators need to be trained to handle problems with objectivity. For training of such magnitude, especially between those who have reached a comparatively higher level of education but who are not conversant with the skills needed, experts in conflict resolution, conflict management, and peace education would be appropriate to do the training.
This training, according to Johnson (2003), should have two procedures. The first procedure calls for specific lessons on: communication skills; controlling anger; appropriate assertiveness; problem solving skills; perspective taking; creative thinking; and a wide variety of other related interpersonal and group skills. The second procedure deals in lesson integration with ongoing training programs. Training should be provided for those entering the field of education, as well as those who are already employed in the field of education in order to give and equal and informed background to all educators. More specifically, those in the teacher training programs will study the theory and the practices of conflict management and transformation, while educators in the field will be trained through seminars and workshops.
Training educators as peacemakers in the 21st century is essential to the future of peacebuilding. There are many reasonings to support this statement. First it will enhance academic achievement as well as train teachers and students in the values of conflict and problem solving negotiations, and mediations procedures. Secondly, incorporating peacemaker training into academic lessons is more efficient than conducting it as a separate course. Thirdly, training in role-playing will increase involvement, create insight into character, wants, feelings, and reasoning, and create more positive attitudes towards the entire school learning environment. Training educators using the step-by-step negotiation framework will help them more thoroughly and effectively analyzed, synthesize, evaluate and remember conflict resolution skills. This training will also require them to learn how to present positions, express feelings, explain underlying interest and reasoning, listen effectively, take others perspectives, engaged in creative problems solving, and reach agreement on the best solution. According to Fullan (2001) “education indicates that innovative practices then to be discontinued unless they are effective in increasing students’ achievements.” The empirical evidence is clear that training educators to be peacemakers increases academic achievement and long –term retention.
At this juncture, I would say that main purpose of the training educators for a culture of peace should be the formation of members of a profession committed to the principles of peace, and capable of engendering similar commitment and imparting the skills of peacemaking and peacebuilding to students. These competencies, it is hoped, might be used to enhance the resolution of conflicts in schools. Using the problem-solving negotiation and mediation procedures in a wide variety of conflicts and involving literature, history, or other like contexts, increases the ability to transfer the procedure to conflicts within educators’ own lives. Furthermore, learning how to resolve conflicts has numerous interpersonal benefits. Relationships are improved and maintained over time and educators who managed conflicts constructively tend to be better liked. Also, the training will have broad generalized positive effects on the over all learning tone of the school. The school environment becomes safer and more orderly as both teachers and students learn the procedures and attitudes they need to manage conflicts and practice them enough to develop skills in using them.
I suggest five simple stages in training educators to be peacemakers, and it is important to note that this training will not require the purchase of new materials and textbooks. The training will require only that an existing instructional unit that contains conflicts is utilized. For example, conflict can be found in any one of Shakespeare’s plays or Achebe’s novels, such as the White man of god. In history lessons, conflicts over land or boarder disputes, amongst other issues, all provide opportunities for understanding the value of constructively managed conflicts and practicing negotiation and mediation procedure. Thus the first stage of training educators is to learn how to use the tools available to them. The second lesson on the training will be to create a cooperative training environment. Structuring the training cooperatively does this. A cooperative context is necessary for teaching and practicing negotiation and mediation skills. The third lesson in the training will be to use concrete living examples to explain the nature of conflicts. In this case, literary works or even stories should be used. In analyzing conflicts within these works, educators will be able to classify the strategies used as being forcing, withdrawal, smoothing, compromise or problem–solving.
The fourth lesson would be to let the educators role-play. Here the participants are assigned in pairs and given specific characters form a literary work to role-play (for example, using William Golden’s Lords of the Flies or in Elechi Amadi’s The Concubine). Participants take specific characters, prepare their basic statements of what they want, how they feel and their reasons, followed by role-play of the conflicts using negotiation and mediation procedures. Practicing this procedure through role-playing enhances long-term achievement.
The fifth lesson for training is to discuss how the problem-solving and mediation procedures may be used to resolve actual conflicts that occur in schools. This will provide the educators with a wide range of options on how to go about handling the various types of conflicts that are prevalent in our schools. Though educators are not necessarily trained on all peace building procedures, it is their responsibility to introduce other peace making methods in schools. Teachers as well as students should be taught to reconcile with one another and to forgive. Reconciliation and apology are the first part of the healing process.
From the above, it is my hope that, if these educators are trained to be peacemakers, they will not only be able to manage conflicts that occur in schools constructively, but also be prepared to better negotiate their personal and family conflicts as well. Specific discussions on how the procedure may be used in actual conflicts will help educators to transfer what they have learned during training to schools and other settings. The long-term impact of the training will bring understanding and promote skills in peacemaking, conflict resolution, and negotiation and mediation techniques. Schools will become safer places for education and achievement.
Burton, J.W. (1969) Conflict and Communication. London: Macmillan.
Fullan, M. (2001) The meaning of Educational Change., New York: Teachers College Press.
Fisher, R., and Ury, W. (1981) Getting to yes. New York: Penguin.
Johnson, D.W., and Johnson, R. (2005). Teaching Students To Be Peacemakers (4th Ed.) Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.
True, M., and Adams, D. (2007) UNESCO Culture of Peace. International Peace Research Newsletter, vol. 35 no 1. pg 16-17.
Ben Mforndip holds a Master's degree from the University for Peace.