Peace education plays an important role in Umubano Primary School in Rwanda. Just 21 years after the devastating genocide tore through the country, Rwanda has taken great steps to secure peace, reconciliation and prosperity for current and future generations. With over 60% of the population under the age of 24, ensuring young people have the skills to build positive social relationships will be key to building a lasting peace. Education, clearly, has a crucial role to play.
Umubano Primary School already has a range of clubs and activities focused on peace education. Through art, drama, role play and discussions, students learn about the recent past and work together to find ways to overcome conflict in everyday life. The school is committed to continuing this, as Jean de Dieu says: “As teachers, here at Umubano Primary school we have decided to work together to help young people learn how deal with conflict creatively and non-violently.”
Peace education will have its own dedicated role in the new Rwanda curriculum, to come into effect in January 2016. In order to prepare students and teachers for the introduction of peace education, Jean de Dieu and one of the teachers at Umubano Primary School recently attended a training session at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre. There, they learned how to structure lessons around key themes, how to facilitate critical thinking and empathy and to inspire commitment to action. Jean de Dieu then applied this to a training session in school where all staff - in group work, presentations and discussions - planned how to take this learning into their own classrooms and the overall ethos of the school. Jean de Dieu said: “We believe that to prevent any kind of violence, education must promote peace, tolerance and understanding to help create a better society for all.”
Alvin Mihigo, Chair of Governors at Umubano wholeheartedly supports this initiative. He wrote to Jean de Dieu to say: Thanks a lot for making UPS a centre where not only children come to learn, but also where parents can learn about their role in education, and, most importantly, to be peacemakers.
The importance of peace education is not just in teaching facts, but in exploring how peace can be taken into the community and the world. The approach includes facilitating and encouraging critical thinking, using participatory teaching methods and discussions – teaching methods that we are working hard to embed across the curriculum in Umubano Primary School. Peace education encourages discussions about the complexity of conflict and forgiveness, as well as the long and short term causes and consequences; it contributes to the critical mindset needed to thrive in a global world. As our whole focus is on high quality, holistic education that prepares students for life, peace education is an appropriate area in which to practice these teaching methods.
At the end of the most recent training course, teachers at Umubano Primary School all confirmed their commitment to taking action by creating a tree of peace. This maps out plans and actions that everyone in the school can do to build peace at school, at home, in Rwanda and in the world. Firmly 'planted' in the staff room, the tree reminds everybody of their role in a peaceful future. As Jean de Dieu says: “As teachers are nation builders, it is our responsibility to teach about peace, plan for a bright future and reshape the world where it is needed.” We all have our part to play. Our partner schools in the UK are also committed to this work and on Peace Day on 21 September, pupils from Dolphin School in Berkshire will share their thoughts on peace with pupils at UPS. APIE stands for partnership. Together we can work towards peace across the world.