Tuesday, September 20, 2011

To achieve peace and national cohesion, start teaching children values in school

By SAM ONGERI & JAMES ole KIYIAPI

As Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the International Day of Peace on Wednesday, we are reminded of the importance of tranquillity in fostering the growth and development of a nation.

It is for this reason that Kenya’s Vision 2030 initiative identifies peace building and security as prerequisites for the achievement of its goals.

The world over, there is growing recognition of the potential for the education sector to act as a catalyst for peace building and national cohesion.

In fact, according to the Global Monitoring Report 2011, a country’s future will be as peaceful, prosperous, and cohesive as its education system allows.

In taking up this responsibility, the Ministry of Education has, since independence, incorporated aspects of promotion of national unity and appreciation of cultural diversity in all its policy documents.

The national education curriculum also incorporates the theme of peace at all levels.

Further, in 2008, the ministry initiated the Peace Education Programme with the aim of enhancing the capacity of the sector to foster peace and tranquillity in the country.
Nobel Prize laureate Ebadi Shirin emphasised this, stating that the most important lesson that a child needs to learn in their earliest school years is to respect the rights of others, refrain from even the simplest forms of violence, and recognise peace as a virtue.

The Peace Education Programme promotes knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that help to prevent conflict and violence.

It is both formative and informative, enabling learners to acquire skills and internalise values and attitudes that help them to promote peace and human dignity at all levels of interaction.

Through the programme, awareness is created among learners on the causes of conflict and how to resolve them amicably, preparing children to become good citizens in their communities, nations and the world.

The classroom becomes a springboard through which global values of positive interdependence, social justice and participation in decision-making are practised.

Since the inception of the initiative, master trainers drawn from the Ministry of Education and the Kenya Institute of Education have been trained on peace education, materials have been developed and distributed, and the Peace Education Coordinating Unit set up.

Additionally, the programme has encouraged the establishment of clubs in learning institutions to promote a culture of peace and introduced life skills education curriculum in both primary and secondary schools.

Further, the ministry has provided dialogue forums on peace education at the international and national levels and carried out monitoring in learning institutions.

It has also developed a draft peace education policy and psychosocial intervention materials to complement the initiatives.

To ensure effective implementation of peace education, schools are expected to establish clubs and develop institutional policies.

Co-curricular activities provide a good opportunity for the promotion of peace education. Teachers also facilitate community service and environmental conservation activities to enhance skills, values, and attitudes of harmonious co-existence.

Peace education is not a stand-alone subject, but is integrated in others. Teachers who receive training are expected to sensitise their colleagues while the materials provided serve to enhance delivery of peace education content within the curriculum.

To strengthen peace education in learning institutions, the ministry intends to develop a programme targeting pre-service teachers, finalise the policy on peace education, initiate public campaigns and carry out evaluation of the programme to assess its outcomes and impact.

As we celebrate the International World Day of Peace, there is a need for all of us to recognise that peace is sacred and facilitates fruitfulness, well-being, prosperity, absence of fear and profound joy.

For this reason, we should join hands in safeguarding the gains that we have made in enhancing peace and also put in more effort in promoting harmonious co-existence and national cohesion.

This is an opportunity for all learning institutions to initiate activities aimed at promoting peace.

The writers are the minister and the permanent secretary respectively, Ministry of Education.