Education for Peace & Development, Panacea for National Unity

A Paper delivered at the Diamond Crest for Youth Education Foundation Conference at The Merit House, Maitama Abuja 24th – 25th July 2013. By Prof. Bridget Sokan P.hd, Mnim

The rampant ethnic and religious tension in Nigeria has frustrated the efforts of many Social Scientists, Educators and Community Leaders for the past few years. Some gains were made in the country’s struggle for democracy but continuing ethnic and religious violence and unrest show how prevalent and intransigent prejudice and discrimination are. Demographic changes and economic pressures force people from different backgrounds to come into contact with each other, giving rise to distrust and alienation. While they cannot stop these changes, schools and educators can help shape students view of the world and promote respect for diversity and a sense of shared humanity. (Jacobs and Kates 1999)

During the last few decades, Intercultural studies have enabled scholars and practitioners to see in all areas, the “invisible paradigms” of the academic system and the larger cultural context that marginalised or trivialised lives of women, youth, ethnic minorities and those outside the dominant class or culture. The curriculum therefore, must be made responsive to Peace Education and multicultural experiences.

Multicultural Education Concept

Multicultural Education encompasses differences in race, ethnicity, occupation, socio-economic status, age, gender, sexual orientation, various physical traits and needs as well as religion and culture. As Gates (1992) pointed out, the Nigerian culture of the late 20th and the 21stcentury is a world profoundly fissured by nationality, ethnicity, and gender; and the only way to transcend those divisions, to forge for once a civic culture that respects both differences and commonalities is through education that seeks to comprehend the diversities of human culture. Beyond the hype and high flown rhetoric, it is a pretty homely truth. There is no tolerance without respect and no respect without knowledge.

Multicultural Education is not a set of curriculum but a perspective that is reflected in all decisions about every phase and aspect of teaching. It is a lens through which teachers and educators can scrutinize their choices in order to clarify what social information they are conveying, overtly and covertly to their students (Ramsey 1987). In other words, educators should be aware of, and responsible for the goals and values of the curriculum design, as well as the materials and activities they deliver to the students.

Education occurs in a socio-cultural context and all curriculum materials and practices reflect certain social values. The broad goals of delivering a multicultural curriculum are as follows:

  1. Helps student develop positive gender, ethnic, cultural, class, religious and individual identities, recognise and accept their membership in many different groups. Ethnic and religious tension often reflects feeling of social injustice and in-group, out-group conflicts. Education can help students define themselves within a context of diversity.
  2. Enables students to see themselves as part of the larger society and to empathise and relate with individuals from other groups within that society. To stop the vicious cycle of resentment and prejudice, students need exposure to the idea that they share many characteristics with people of other groups within that society. Students also need to see different points of view, use highly developed communication skills, rather than impose their own views and tolerate differences.
  3. Foster respect for and appreciation of differences. Distrust and resentment of people of different groups often rest on ignorance or misperception of their habits, life styles and viewpoints.
  4. Develop a sense of shared humanity. Intergroup prejudice often leads to looking for scapegoats and even worse, can become destructive. If students have an objective and realistic view of society and see how people are affected by the same forces, they may empathise with others and be less constrained by their narrow self interest.
  5. Helps student develop the educational and social skills to fully participate in larger society in ways appropriate to their individual styles, cultural orientations and linguistic backgrounds. While having knowledge of different groups and lifestyles may reduce the fear of differences, the motivation for reaching beyond cultural, ethnic and class barriers, rest on people’s self esteem and confidence and may influence the ways new generation of youths interpret and participate in social relationships.

The Curriculum must also embrace Peace Education in order to inculcate these values in our youths.

 

What is Peace Education?

Peace Education is the process of acquiring the values, knowledge and developing the attitudes, skills and behaviours to live in harmony with one’s self, with others and with their natural environment. Harris & Synott (2002) define peace education as a series of teaching encounters that elicit in people:

  1. The desire for peace
  2. Non-violent alternatives for managing conflict
  3. Skills for critical analysis for structural arrangement that produce and legitimise injustice and inequality.

The Nigerian curriculum should provide for Peace Education to be taught as encouraging a commitment to peace as a settled disposition and enhancing the confidence of the individual as an agent of peace, informing the students on the consequences of war and social injustice, as well as the value of peaceful and just social structures.

Peace Education curriculum should comprise of things like environmental responsibility, communication skills, conflict resolution, democracy, human rights awareness, tolerance of diversity, citizenship, and gender equality.

Conflict Resolution skills should primarily focus on the social, behavioural symptoms of conflicts through techniques like negotiation, peer mediation, managing anger and fighting fair. Communication skills should include listening, turn taking, identifying needs and separation of facts from emotions.

Democracy Education curriculum should comprise of identifying institutions of democracy, roles and responsibility of such, citizenship education and the commitment of citizens to accept the inevitability of conflict education. It should also provide opportunity for the training of students to foster a conflict positive orientation that conflict is a platform for creativity and growth. Other components of democracy education are critical thinking, freedom of speech, tolerance of diversity, compromise, and accountability in governance. Democracy should decrease the likelihood of violence and war, and promote the culture of peace.

Human Rights Education should centre on raising awareness of Human rights through the awareness of students to the International Covenants and declarations of the U.N and ensure local policies are in tandem with such declarations.

Conclusion

Multicultural and Peace Education curricular, offer the best platform for addressing the issue of peace, multicultural differences, and gender equality. Gender equality provides inclusive curriculum, which eliminates sex-discriminating or stereotyping expressions that favour or harm either sex. They should also address socio-economic differences, by conveying the fact that family circumstances are not the only way of life and are often the result of social injustice rather than personal failure. Conflict resolution techniques like negotiation, peer mediation, managing anger, negative and destructive behaviours as well as communication skills should be embedded in these curricular.

Democracy education focusing on citizenship, respect for others, tolerance and human rights of the individual should be an integral part of these curricular. Government should strengthen the Informal system of education, so that school dropouts and out of school youths can benefit from peace education as well as multicultural curriculum in an informal setting. Success in the education sector will correspondingly translate to a higher level of National development, as conflict and its attendant negative tendencies will be reduced drastically.

Job creation, skills acquisition development and partnership with Government policies will no doubt be a boost to good governance, thereby building higher level of trust between the government and the governed.

There is therefore no other time than now to review the education curriculum to accommodate multicultural and peace education than now.

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