|Outreach No. 97 - Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances - Part 2: Children Affected by Catastrophes (New York University - TVE - UNEP - WWF, 70 p.)|
SUGGESTIONS FOR USE teachers, youth workers: As ideas for developing programmes for children affected by war and civil conflict journalists, radio broadcasters: As examples to cite in programmes and articles about how to educate children in areas of conflict
Education for peace projects are taking conflict resolution techniques to the front lines. The five UNICEF-supported projects profiled here have come from different kinds of conflicts, yet they share common goals. In all the projects, children are not only learning that peace is possible, but how to make it happen.
(1) MOZAMBIQUE - A mobile theatre troup uses dance, art and drama to portray a world of tolerance
Creative self-expression is the key to an education initiative for marginalised groups in Mozambique. Circo da Paz took to the road in mid-1993 in order to reach disabled adults, demobilised soldiers and, primarily, children. This travelling circus of trainers uses theatre, art and dance to help people heal from two decades of war.
"About half of the Mozambican population has never known what it is like to live in a war-free environment," says Barbara Kolucki of UNICEF Maputo, "and it will still be years before many children have access to schooling, to good recreation or to a creative environment - access to the conditions that help children and their families rebuild hope."
The trainers, a group of a dozen professional artists and educators, are known as the Circus Training Team. A training site is called a "circus" because, like a circus, it represents a community structure that uses the strengths and talents of all its members to create a local production. After two months of training with a group of young people, the circus moves on to the next site. The plan is to tour all ten provinces in Mozambique within two years.
In addition to dance, art and drama, young people learn to explore and promote peace through games, puppetry and the skills of radio, television and print journalism. In fact, journalists are another target group for training. A variety of advocacy and training activities introduce media professionals to conflict resolution techniques and encourage them to incorporate issues such as tolerance, self-esteem and non-violence into their work.
The programme is growing from the grassroots with support from local governments, NGOs, religious groups, media systems and others.
(2) LEBANON - Teenagers teaching peace to younger children
The Education for Peace project in Lebanon has shown more than 140,000 young people how to look beyond the cultural and religious barriers enforced by sixteen years of war. It began in 1989 to bring together youth from different communities into residential day camps, summer camps and neighbourhood clubs.
These highly recreational settings are host to a wide range of educational activities. Leadership exercises, creative workshops and sports invite children to question their values, beliefs and biases. UNICEF Programme Officer, Anna Mansour says that the process of interactive learning helps children come to understand one another.
"For a generation deprived of childhood, the project buffers the impact of war, enhances their inner peace, and tries to bring joyful expression into their lives. This is preventive and corrective education for development; not teaching about peace but living it each day." she says. An emphasis on non-formal education, conflict resolution and communication skills underlies many of the activities.
At the camps and clubs, younger children are led by older youth monitors - volunteers trained to help them learn the values of community life, cooperation, solidarity, respect for others, environmental awareness and forgiveness. Some 6,000 students have been trained as youth monitors.
The experience can be powerful, as a volunteer from South Lebanon explains:
"When the war started I was 3 years old. Now I am 18. I never knew peace. Before I came here, peace was only a dream, an illusion. Just as we stepped out of the bus, I felt peace going through me due to the warm welcome from all of the instructors. Especially after all of the hardship, we did not feel like strangers. It felt like home."
Through Education for Peace, the Lebanese Government, UNICEF and 240 NGOs are working together to replace Lebanon's culture of war with a culture of reconciliation. This goal is furthered through the publication of a children's magazine entitled SAWA (togetherness in Arabic), which delivers a message of peace to 70,000 young readers.
(3) SRI LANKA - teacher-training tackles the troubles of ethnic strife
In Sri Lanka, where there is continuing unrest, "children feel there is no way to settle disputes other than resorting to violence," says Mr Bogoda Premaratne, Secretary to the Cabinet, Committee on Education and Socio-Cultural Affairs. He helped initiate Sri Lanka's education for peace project along with local groups and UNICEF.
The project, Education for Conflict Resolution (ECR), was established in 1989 to offer children alternatives to violence. The main focus is training for teachers. Teachers are being trained to identify the values of peace and tolerance and to integrate them into their own subject area. Before, it was assumed that these values would emerge with good teaching, but now we find we cannot wait," Premaratne says.
ECR trains educators to teach the values and skills of conflict resolution. This includes: critical thinking (re-evaluating beliefs which may be based on stereotypes or on negative images or perceptions of others); empathy (putting oneself into the position of others); self-esteem (developing positive feelings and attitudes about oneself); and cooperation (collectively working with others to reach a goal).
Instructional materials have been developed by ECR for school principals, teachers and educational officials. More than 10,000 schools will have received the materials by the end of 1996. The project also reaches out to the general public by promoting examples of peaceful ways of resolving conflict through television, newspaper, radio, posters and comic strips. While ECR is still small, the project is growing to meet ambitious goals: to reduce social conflict and to provide Sri Lanka's 4.5 million school children with a greater understanding of the heritages and traditions of their country.
(4) THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA - broadcasts for peace
In war-torn Sarajevo, some children no longer have a school to go to. For others, opportunities for recreation and leisure are severely limited by the dangers of unpredictable shelling. All too many children struggle with the painful emotions that follow the death or injury of a family member or friend.
But since the summer of 1993, a radio programme called "Colourful Wall" has been bringing education, entertainment and psychological support to children whose lives have been disrupted by war.
"Colourful Wall" is a one-hour programme featuring a rotating series of subjects, selected and prepared by a team of 18 children aged 10 to 13, with some help from supportive adults from the radio station. It is broadcast twice a weekday on a popular radio station. Whenever possible, the young people conduct polls of other children around the city. Their needs and interests determine each segment of the programme. 'Press centres' have been created in 15 areas of the city. Children bring news of interesting neighbourhood events to the nearest press centre and, when the phone service is operating, items are phoned in to the radio station and selected for broadcast.
The show's topics include children's literature, geography, astronomy, ecology, science, art, health and English language. A broadcast on environmental issues explored the effects of war on urban ecosystems. A special daily segment presents information about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, linking it to the conditions of children in Sarajevo.
A popular part of the programme is devoted to psycho-social issues. "Little problems, bigger problems" allots ten minutes to the kinds of trauma commonly experienced by children in war. In a "column", children at the station answer questions about love, dogs, sports, comic strips and music. Weekly quizzes and popular music selected by children are ongoing features.
Despite obstacles, such as frequent and widespread lack of electricity, surveys indicate that 80 per cent of the citizens of Sarajevo - adults and children - listen to "Colourful Wall". The young editors have refused to let their spirits be crushed by war and are reaching out every day to their peers, offering learning, recreation/emotional support and hope.
(5) LIBERIA - Drama is used to change minds and heal hearts
Kukatonon is the name (chosen by children) of a UNICEF-supported project in Liberia which sets the stage for peace through children's theatre. Kukatonon, meaning "we are one" or "unity" in the Kpelle language is the brainchild of Joe Gbaba, a former host of an entertainment programme on Liberian television.
The brutal violence of the civil war in Liberia in 1990 touched everyone in the country including Gbaba. He became aware of the war's deep effect on children when he began working with those who had been orphaned or abandoned. He concluded that the children needed to redevelop a sense of national identity and patriotism: "They needed to be shown that there's something worth their allegiance that transcends the tribal loyalties that were the root of all the trouble."
The best therapy, Gbaba felt, would combine expressions of national pride with songs, games and myths from a child's own ethnic culture. The children would 'act' these out in a theatre troupe.
A children's theatre troupe was formed in Monrovia, and the members of Kukatonon Children's Peace Theatre performed their first songs and dances in June 1992.
While theatre continues to be a central component of the project, training workshops on conflict resolutions are expanding. The workshops use role play, active listening and reconciliation exercises to encourage children to act as peer educators: cooperating with other children, communicating messages of unity, and taking an active role in building peace. The workshops, like the performances, aim to cultivate attitudes of mutual understanding and forgiveness and to reduce ethnic prejudices and biases. Attended by children, teachers, and school administrators, the workshops prepare their participants to go into schools and communities to teach the same skills to others, as some of the 70 teachers trained so far have done.
The project's approach to conflict resolution training has captured the attention of the Ministry of Education, which is working to sustain the project's activities within the school system. In a related venture, the national Adult Education Association is creating a centre for research and information on education for peace, with support from UNICEF. More work is needed, especially with the thousands of young former soldiers who are ill-equipped for life without their guns.