Education for Peace: Need for Violence Prevention in Schools and Communities

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Violence is a central concept for describing social relationships among humans, a concept loaded with ethical and political significance. The World Health Organisation (WHO) defines as “the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.”

Yet, the most common form of violence I observed in context of the schools and communities I work with is Non-verbal violence, commonly termed as verbal abuse, which encompasses a relatively large spectrum of behaviours, including: accusing, undermining, verbal threatening, ordering, trivializing, silencing, blaming, name calling, overtly criticizing and also verbal violence disguised as jokes.

Here, I would like to share the discussion we had within our debrief group on the importance of Education for Peace in the school-community context.

Participants: Debabrata Saha, Chandrani Roy, Ashik Krishnan

Part 1: Case Study

“Will he become a terrorist or a Goonda?”

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Post reading the Case Study a discussion was done, whether the fellows have observed such instances in their school/community.

Chandrani:

“When I went to an other fellow’s school once for implementation of Baseline exam, there was a girl who wouldn’t sit on the bench but only on the floor. Even after persuading a lot, she didn’t abide. Finally I gave her a mat to sit on. Later she told her that her father being mentally ill, her friends harass her and beats her up. Her mother and sister are the breadwinners of the family and the children from the community brings it to the school. Now the whole school harasses her. And when she retaliates, her teacher beats her up.

During Community Immersion (CI is a 30 day process in which the Gandhi Fellow stays in a school community to have a better understanding of life in the community and identify problems specific to the community and comes up with solution for the same), there was a 5th std boy Raju, at Timbinaka. He knows and does all the household chores and is almost alone. He cooks and washes clothes and his body language is a bit effeminate. The people in the community, school and elders teases him. Due to this, he has become stubborn and now directly beats up those who teases him.”

Ashik:

“I’ve observed students getting angry for trivial matters and gets themselves involved in fit-fight and use of slangs, swear words and curse words. One of the reasons I’ve found out as the reason for this was the lack of parental involvement. Children tend to replicate the actions of their elders. There was once an incident in a co-fellow’s school where there was rift between the native Marathi and the migrant Uttar Pradesh communities and the idea of it is instilled in smaller kids as well. A class 2 kid was narrating a fight that happened between two 8th std kids of the same school: “Marathi bhaiya ne UP wala bhaiya ko maara”. And the kid was taking pride in the same. The sense of empathy, peace and harmony are supposed to be inculcated from the childhood itself.”

Part 2: Statement

“I do not believe that children learn violence from home. They learn it from school.”

Do you support or oppose the view?

Debabrata: “School is not the only system that is responsible. Parental influence is an important factor as well.”

Chandrani: “I oppose the view. They have their stints with violence in the community as well. The incidents shared above itself provides support for evidence.”

Ashik: “School and community both are responsible. I’ve observed it in the community during my Community Immersion.”

Part 3: Approach to Education for Peace

1) Stage specific approach

- Primary stage of education is the ideal time for laying foundation of a peace-oriented personality.

- It is easier to build a child rather than repair and adult.

2) Teachers as Peace Builders

- For students, teachers are role-models.

- Therefore, teachers play a role, unwittingly, in propagating violence if they are not oriented to peace.

3) Pedagogical skills and strategies

- Demonstrate the many ways in which one can show respect to elders at home and in school. How do we show respect while asking for things, listening, or talking? (Environmental Studies/Language).

- Express the meaning of the word ‘cooperation’ in different ways (Language).

- Describe how anger destroys peace (Social Science/Language).

- Identify as many activities as possible, which indicate the good that we can do to others with our hands (Language).

- Study problems linked with violence. Encourage the students to share their experiences with violence so that others in the class can also learn strategies for coping with fears and anxieties.

4) Integrating Peace Concerns in Classroom transaction.

- Eg: Consider illustrating a magnetic field. The teacher holds a magnet under a sheet of paper and sprinkles iron filings on it. The iron filings get instantaneously arranged into an intricate pattern due to the force field created by the hidden magnet. The teacher then changes the magnet and sprinkles the same iron filings. The iron filings then form an entirely different pattern. All that has changed is the magnet.

Usually teachers leave the lesson at that, but not a peace-oriented teacher. To such a teacher, the experiment may be used as an opportunity to explain to the students what happens to individuals subjected to indoctrination and mass hysteria. Their ability to be authentic individuals, who think rationally and act responsibly, is taken over by powerful hidden interests. They are coerced into attitudes and actions dictated by others. The teacher can, then, offer some reflections on the nature of violence. Violence suppresses one’s moral sensibility, rational thinking and humane sentiments. Violence makes us like the iron filings. And when the context changes, we regret our conduct.

Conclusion:

Creating safe and supportive schools and communities is essential for safeguarding students’ social and academic success. There are multiple components to establishing an environment in which the student feels safe, valued and responsible for their behaviour and learning. And the most important one is to prevent violence, in all forms.

Reference: Position Paper, National Focus Group on Education for Peace, NCERT.

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