KENT STATE UNIVERSITY (Ohio, USA)
INTERNATIONAL PEACE DAY 2021: PEACE EDUCATION FOR AN EQUITABLE AND SUSTAINABLE WORLD
LOCAL AND GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE
It is a privilege and honor to be part of this discussion around peace education. In my presentation, a focus will be laid on (i) definition(s), scope and methodologies of peace education with a view to highlight how these considerations play out in the Rwandan context; (ii) the balance/tension between the universalism of much mainstream thinking on peace and the need for cultural specificity where I will argue for postcolonial peace education; and (iii) challenges involved in peace education in Rwanda. In this presentation, I draw from a number of sources. These include my teaching of the module “Citizenship and Transformative Education” – a compulsory module for all year one students at the University of Rwanda (UR); my involvement as Co-Investigator in the Project “Mobile Arts for Peace: Informing the National Curriculum and Youth Policy in Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, Indonesia and Nepal”, funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC – UK); my role as Co-Investigator in the Project “Research-led peace education as a crisis prevention in Central Africa Republic”, funded by the British Academy; my role as Principal Investigator for the Project “Building cultures of peace in Rwandan schools”, funded by Global Challenge Research Fund (GCRF), UK Research Innovation Fund (UKRI); and the review of the academic literature.
- Definition, scope and methodologies of peace education
Different conceptualizations of violence lead to varied ways of characterizing peace and peace education. If we restrict oursleves to describe peace simply with the lens of absence of physical violence, a view will be held that peace education has to aim for establishing negative peace. But if we conceive peace more broadly and delineate its contours in the form of structural and symbolic violence, then a more enriched view of peace education is achieved where peace education is meant to establish positive peace. In what follows, I unpack this argument in a more even handed manner.
Peace education for negative peace: human rights education, international education, and conflict resolution
The academic literature around peace education shows that varied ways of describing peace and peace education are premissed on different forms of violence. Direct violence involves the immediate relationship between the perpetrator and the victim of violence, and most of the time it takes the form of physical violence. Armed conflict, genocide, terrorism are examples of direct violence (Chaudhuri, 2015; Galtung, 1969; Galtung, 1990; Harris, 2004).
Structural violence, on the other hand, does not need the direct relationship between the perpetrator and the victim of violence. It is built into social, economic, and political structures at the local, national, regional and global levels. It chiefly involves the unequal distribution of resources and opportunities and prevents people from actualizing their potentials. In this regard, it is synonymous with social injustice (Sen, 1999; Snauwaert, 2011). Unequal access to and unfair distribution of services such as education, health, natural resources (land) are examples of structural violence (Chaudhuri, 2015; Galtung, 1969; Galtung, 1990; Harris, 2004; Kester & Cremin, 2017). The third category is cultural violence which refers to norms, values, self perceptions and affiliations, attitudes, beliefs and ideologies that orchestrate and perpetuate direct and structural violence. Cultural violence can happen for instance through religion, ideology and science (Galtung, 1990).
According to Galtung (1990) and Chaudhuri (2015), the three types of violence are inextricably connected and mutually reinforcing. For instance, direct violence may result from structural violence. It may erupt in the form of resistance on behalf of those who are oppressed. On the other hand, the privileged group may also resort to direct violence as a way of maintaining its hegemony and dominant position. In addition, direct and structural violence are both rooted in ideologies and beliefs that propel people to enforce physical harm or fuel social injustice or discrimination. Thus, between the three forms of violence, there is a relationship of interdependence and mutual support.
It is only after grappling with different forms of violence that the pathway to understand peace and peace education is paved. This orientation suggests that in order to curtail direct violence negative peace is needed (Chaudhuri, 2015; Galtung, 1969; Galtung, 1990; Harris, 2004; Kester & Cremin, 2017). Negative peace refers to the absence of direct and physical violence in the form of war, armed conflict, and terrorism. For achieving negative peace, there is a need to have in place a kind of peace education towards negative peace. Here peace education is described as human rights education (aimed at recognizing the claims individuals can make principally to the state about how they should be treated), international education (geared towards peacekeeping in and between nations), and conflict resolution (whose goal is peacemaking skills development) (Harris, 2004).
In the context of peace education as conducted in post-genocide Rwanda by government institutions, educational systems, civil society organizations, faith-based orgaizations, it is noticeable that the vast majority of peace education initiatives tend to focus on negative peace, i.e. the absence of direct or physical violence. Although the 2003 Constitution as amended todate calls for building a state committed to promote social justice and social welfare, and that there are observable policies, programs and laws meant to fight discrimination in its different forms, there is a limited emphasis placed on positive peace in the form of structural approaches to reconciliation, human rights education and a willingness to establish stable peace. Also, it is noticeable that there is a tendency to conflate peace education and character education. Here a view is held that change in youth and adult behaviors will necessarily result in peace (Novelli, Lopes Cardozo, & Smith, 2015; Sayed & Novelli, 2016) – a view that requires much closer scrutiny. This is the case, for instance, of peace education initiatives undertaken by the Aegis Trust whose aim is to catalyse attitudinal and behavioural change, and thus awaken positive behaviour. The same tendency is also apparent in broad peace education initiatives led by government institutions (e.g. National Unity and Reconciliation Commission – NURC; the National Comission for the fight against Genocide – Commission Nationale de Lutte contre le Genocide – CNLG; National Itorero Commission – NIC). The Peace education conducted by these institutions place an emphasis on values and taboos, unity and reconciliation, and genocide prevention. Echoing some past studies (e.g. Doerrer, 2019; Galtung, 1969) I argue that the central aim and primary contribution of peace education is/should be to address structural and cultural violence.
Peace education for positive peace: Critical peace education
Structural and cultural violence require a broader notion of peace beyond negative peace. They call for positive peace, which posits the creation of social, economic, and political conditions that foster justice, equality and well-being. Positive peace is achieved through a specific kind of peace education beyond human rights education, international education, and conflict resolution. It calls for critical peace education (Bajaj & Brantmeier, 2011; Freire, 1993; Hantzopoulos, 2011; Kester & Cremin, 2017) where young people and adults are equipped with knowledge, skills, values and attitudes necessary to identify various forms of injustices existing in society and work towards their eradication. A number of studies argue that critical peace education offers a constructive response to structural and cultural violence (Bajaj & Brantmeier, 2011; Brantmeier, 2013; Freire, 1993; Hantzopoulos, 2011; Kester & Booth, 2010; Snauwaert, 2011). This kind of peace education is also described as developmental education (Harris, 2004).
Brantmeier (2011) posits that there are five stages of critical peace education for teacher education: raising consciousness (about oppression) through dialogue; imagining nonviolent alternatives; providing specific modes of empowerment; transformative action; and reflection and re-engagement. Simply put, critical peace education is informed by the critical pedagogy of Paul Freire (2003). It is committed to the idea that education projects and scholarship should pay attention to issues of structural inequalities and aim at cultivating a sense of transformative agency to create new social, epistemic and political structures with a view to promote peace and social justice (Bajaj, 2015).
Looking at ways in which peace education is conducted in post-genocide Rwanda, it is apparent that a very limited emphasis is placed on critical peace education orientation. I tend to believe that not only does peace education aim to change learners and adult behaviors in a way that achieves peace (e.g. peacemaking skills development, values education, character education), it also aims to teach young people and adults to identify and address structural forms of oppression existing in society at all levels, i.e. socioeconomic, political and cultural.
In terms of scope and methodologies, depending on the location where peace education is taking place, it has been described as in-school and out-of-school peace education (Bar-Tal & Rosen, 2009). With regard to the in-school scheme, peace education can be a stand-alone subject or embedded through some subjects like social studies, philosophy, and history. Peace education may also permeate or inform all subjects. In Rwanda peace education permeates all the subjects on the curriculum. Aegis Trust in collaboration with the Rwanda Basic Education Board (REB) have developed a peace and values education program (PVE) with guides for teachers and model lessons plans which allow teachers to embed peace education in all subjects. In a recent data collection that I conducted to evaluate the teaching of PVE in schools, it was noted that the cross cutting approach has some advantages and limitations. The advantage is that all teachers are concerned to educate in peace education through the medium of their respective subjects. Problems associated with this approach include the lack of time for some teachers to talk about peace education because they are under pressure of completing the program. Also, some teachers have not been trained to use PVE materials and in some schools PVE materials are non-existing or insufficient.
Regarding content, the academic literature (e.g. Bar-Tal & Rosen, 2009) suggests two approaches to peace education: indirect and direct approaches. The indirect peace education does not directly address the conflict (i.e., its goals, historical course, costs, or the image of the rival). Instead, it concerns itself with very general themes relevant to peace such as (i) reflective thinking – questioning held beliefs including dominant assumptions; (ii) tolerance – a person’s or group’s readiness to bear, to allow, and even hear opinions (thoughts or attitudes) that contradict his or her own; (iii) ethno-empathy – the ability of a person or a group to experience what the other ethnic group feels or thinks; and (iii) human rights, and conflict resolution. The direct model of peace education addresses directly key issues and themes at the heart of the conflict. It deals with themes such as conflict and peace (the essence of the conflict, reasons, stages, consequences, and resolution methods), the peace process – various peace processes undertaken; presentation of the rival; history of the conflict; and creation of new affect and emotion – and the recognition that collective fear and hatred must be reduced and collective hope, trust, and mutual acceptance must be actually fostered. In the context of post-genocide Rwanda, several initiatives and programs address peace education but this is done implicitly. In other words, there is no detailed engagement with the nature, history and consequences of the conflict.
- Striking the balance/tension between the universalism of much mainstream thinking on peace and the need for cultural specificity: towards postcolonial peace education
Postcolonial peace education constitutes a synergy between post-colonial theory and critical peace education. Here post colonialism refers to periodicity but also to a mode of analysis. As an analytical tool, it seeks to examine processes of knowledge production and their role in the creation and perpetuation of neo-colonial violence and order (Williams, 2013).
Postcolonial peace education is characterized by two features (Kurian & Kester, 2019; Zakharia, 2017; Zembylas, 2018). First, unlike critical peace education which concerns itself with immediate, localized social injustices and positions the work of liberation in the mind of the oppressed, postcolonial peace education perceives structural violence beyond the immediate local context and challenges broader postcolonial structural violence, i.e. the violence posed by colonialism despite its apparent end. Postcolonial peace education locates structural violence in the world order deeply rooted in colonialism persistent in areas such as economics, politics, social, and international relations. In other words, post-colonial peace education locates the work of liberation in the dismantling of structures of lingering colonisation.
Second, postcolonial peace education argues against a monolithic conception of peace education where peace education is characterized as the absence of violence. It is a problematisation of a universalized vision of peace and peace education. Postcolonial peace education recognises the validity of other peace education theories and practices especially those from indigenous or colonized people. Understood this way, there is no regulation, universalization, and standards of what peace education ought to be (Zakharia, 2017).
According to Kurian and Kester (2019), postcolonial peace education seeks to allow voices of the Global South to inform theory and practice, thought and praxis in peace education. It argues against the marginalization of peace approaches from or working in the Global South. Postcolonial peace education is a way of addressing epistemic violence in peace education, i.e. imposing western beliefs in peace education on colonized populations. In short, it is an invitation to broaden peace education epistemology and praxis (Sandoval, 2016; Sumida Huaman, 2011; Williams, 2016; Zakharia, 2017; Zembylas, 2018).
Within the framework of post-colonial peace education, peace is conceptualized in terms of recognition, acceptance of diverse cultural worldviews, epistemologies, and practices that are conducive for peace. Here there is an invitation towards recognizing context-specific approaches in peace education. Practically, this means that in designing peace education programs there is a need to (i) draw from local peace education theories and practices; (ii) adapt practices to the context in which they take place; and (iii) include beneficiaries and stakeholders in the design of those efforts (Davies, 2004; Gittins, 2020; Salomon, 2011; Wessells, 2013). In other words, peace education materials should be context-specific, better co-produced, co-created and not parachuted in from other places. In this discussion, some of the questions to be considered include: (i) What is the content to be delivered? (ii) What are the pedagogies suitable for peace education? In this regard, local peace education stakeholders must be included in the process of deciding about priorities, content and approaches to peace education. These include public institutions, NGOs, civil society organisations, and faith-based organisations.
Two ideas from this reflection on post-colonial peace education are central to peace education practices in Rwanda. First, peace education cannot overlook the important role played by the world order in the creation and perpetuation of structural as well as cultural violence. In this regard, neo-colonialism should feature on the content of peace education programs in Rwanda. The second idea is that locally generated peace education initiatives and practices yield better results than parachuted ones. In this regard, the contribution of home-grown knowledges and practices to peace education should be highlighted. These include, for instance, Abunzi – mediation committees; parents’ evening forums [Umugoroba w’ababyeyi], Umuganda (community work), Umuganura (day of harvest), Girinka (get a cow), Umushyikirano (National dialogue), Ndi umunyarwanda ( I am a Rwandan program), and Itorero. The point is that peace education in post-genocide Rwanda might examine ways of using these locally inspired forums to expressly address direct (physical), structural and cultural violence. In other words, the question would be to examine ways in which home-grown knowledges and practices in peace education can be used to address direct, structural and cultural forms of violence for the promotion of a peaceful coexistence.
- Challenges involved in implementing peace education in Rwanda
In talking about challenges in peace education in Rwanda, I draw from the work I conducted in the framework of a peace education project funded the British Academy in collaboration with the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies – SOAS, King’s College London (UK).
In conflict affected settings peace education does not go without difficulties, tensions and contradictions. In the context of post-genocide Rwanda, some of these tensions are chiefly related to the interpretation and teaching of history, the deconstruction and re-construction of ethnic identities, the individual versus the collective memory, the prevalence of unexpressed and unhealed wounds, and the temporality of peace education. In paragraphs to follow, these contradictions are unpacked with great care.
3.1. History interpretation and teaching
The conflict that led to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is deeply rooted in history. One of the major tasks of peace education is to interrogate history by teaching both young and adult generations the real account of the past in a way that fosters peace, reconciliation and social cohesion. Teaching history in post-genocide Rwanda is an arduous task particularly because of three major reasons: defining the content to teach and how to teach it; engaging with some sensitive concepts; and the positionality of the history teacher.
It is difficult to define the Rwandan history content to teach and how to teach it. The history of Rwanda is mainly seen alongside three periods: the precolonial, colonial, and post-colonial era including the genocide and after-genocide period. The interpretation of what these periods mean especially in terms of unity of Rwandans is subject to debate. The academic literature shows that there are serious contradictions on how people consider some parts of the Rwandan history. As a matter of fact, in terms of the precolonial period, while some argue that the period was deeply characterized by unity and social cohesion among Rwandans, others show that even before colonialism there were inherent tensions within the ruling regime. Reference is made here to the Rucunshu case (Watkins & Jessee, 2020). Another case in point is the 1994 genocide against Tutsi whose narratives are as diverse as they are tellers. In the materials we collected there is evidence suggesting that history teachers are faced with the difficult to teach some parts of the Rwandan history because of various interpretations. The excerpts below demonstrate these difficulties.
Some teachers are afraid to talk about history (pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial as well as independence period and genocide) in most cases because they do not have knowledge about it, others are not convinced of what happened or what they are told to teach. Still others feel ashamed to talk about some of those topics because of their identities. We have developed a teacher guide but for some reasons it is not well used and that becomes a challenge to REB. (MKR)
Another challenge linked to Rwanda history teaching is the use of certain concepts especially those related to ethnic identities (Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa). Caution in using some concepts is also required when talking about the 1994 genocide where uttering some concepts might be seen as genocide ideology. The current government is committed to promote an inclusive discourse of citizenship chiefly anchored on Rwandanness at the expense of potentially dividing ethnic affiliations. However, the history of Rwanda is deeply embedded with ethnic concepts to the extent that a history teacher can hardly avoid them. In this context the caveat resides in striking the balance between remaining faithful to historical facts and not compromising the Rwandanness philosophy, i.e. Ndi umunyarwanda. Consider the following opinion.
The other thing is about the use of certain concepts, and some of the teachers were hesitating to use them. When you have history modules and people in charge of teaching them are afraid to use some concepts in those modules, this is also a challenge. […] First, when it comes to talking about ethnicity, let me say it well as we are in the research framework. When it comes to using these concepts Hutus and Tutsis, teachers are afraid to use them. Second, some concepts are frequently used during the genocide commemoration period, and when there are misused, they may lead to the genocide ideology. There is some fear of using certain words because they may be considered as genocide ideology. So, people rather avoid their use. (SNIC)
The positionality of the history teacher is another challenge. What is at issue here is that some teachers are reluctant to narrate or teach some parts of the Rwandan history because they might have been affected by them in one way or another. Also, in some cases some teachers might be holding an opinion different from and inconsistent with the public narrative. In such cases, the history teacher choses the route of avoiding those topics for the sake of protecting his/her positionality.
If a teacher is from a family that participated in the killings during the genocide, he/she is ashamed, afraid to engage in discussions related to genocide in classroom. When she/he is given such a topic [genocide related topic] for discussions in class, it becomes a challenge for the teacher because whatever she or he teaches, students regard him/her as also a perpetrator. For a teacher who survived the genocide, discussions of the genocide related topics reminds him/her of what happened during the genocide. (MKT)
This finding joins Buhigiro’s (2020, p. 28) who affirms that “the teaching of the genocide against the Tutsi is not an easy task because the teacher has to be careful not only in the choice of the methodology but also in selecting words to be used in a history class and taking into consideration the Rwandan socio-political context.” In other words, even 24 years later teaching the genocide against the Tutsi raises some concerns. The teacher is expected to bear in mind that the vast majority of Rwandans are still under the hangover of genocide. Therefore, great caution must be taken in choosing the teaching methods, words to be used and the topics to be covered and/or avoided in public debates. These strategies put the teacher on a safe side, and the wellbeing of both learners and society at large is not compromised.
3.2. Deconstruction and re-negotiation of ethnic identities
In an attempt to do away with ethnic cleavages that marked the recent past, Rwanda is committed to an inclusive conception where ethnic identities have been replaced by the national identity, i.e. Rwandanness. In peace education, it is almost unavoidable to talk about ethnic identities considering the central role they have played in shaping the Rwandan history and conflict. The current prohibition of using these concepts puts teachers (and other educationalists more generally) in a difficult situation. As a matter of fact, in peace education some learners find it difficult to square the nonexistence of ethnic identities (Hutu, Tutsi and Twa) with the appellation of genocide as the ‘genocide against Tutsi.’
One of the sensitive topics is this concept of genocide and its consequences. But it is also about ethnicity. For example, young people in any session we have had with government institutions, this one question always comes up: if you say that we don’t have Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda, and we still have the “Genocide against Tutsi” in our constitution, how do you connect that? (GUC)
Another tension exists between the public discourse (or official curriculum) and narratives prevailing in private spaces. In the materials we collected, it was found that although the public discourse is dominated by the national identity narrative (Ndi Umunyarwanda), private spaces (e.g., families) transmit another narrative where ethnic identities and ideologies are deeply recognized and transmitted from old to young generations. The argument here is that there is a contradiction between the official curriculum and the hidden social curriculum which creates confusion among learners in peace education. This situation suggests that although ethnic identities have been deconstructed in the public space, they are being re-constructed in private spaces and are unofficially shaping people’s interactions.
3.3. Genocide: Individual versus collective/national memory
Although the 1994 genocide against Tutsi was ubiquitous over the Rwandan territory and has had a wide coverage across all corners of the country, people have experienced it in so many different ways. The idea is that there is a noticeable heterogeneity in terms of people’s experiences and affects. In peace education, it is critical to talk about various forms of violence that characterized the past conflict. As mentioned previously, these forms include physical or direct violence, structural violence and symbolic violence. In conflict affected societies, one of the ways to avoid the recurrence of violence is to preserve memory of past events. In the context of post-genocide Rwanda, what is at issue in peace education is to select which and whose memory to preserve in such a way that every victim of the genocide feels included and represented. In the materials we collected, it was revealed that some individual memories are ignored. In other words, the collective memory tends to silence individual ones. Findings from the materials collected suggest that some forms of violence are talked about while others are given little to no consideration. The non-recognition of some memories is likely to slow down efforts towards unity and reconciliation.
There is an official version of what happened but problems regarding genocide are like cultural ones: each one stands on the side of what s/he experienced. When someone talks about genocide, s/he refers to his/her killed father, his/her killed mother, his/her cows that were eaten, and so on. Others also had experienced several other things. So, everyone considers genocide in his/her is own sight. Thus, it is difficult to put together all those experiences. (AB)
This finding corroborates other studies (e.g. King, 2010; Ndushabandi, 2015) which showed that the current Rwandan leadership selectively highlights some memories of violence while others are repressed and this is likely to hinder sustainable peace. The official memory is transmitted through memorials (e.g. Kigali Genocide Memorial – KGM), Ingando re-education camps, and schools. More generally, King (2010) classifies memories alongside four categories: Tutsi recognized memories, somewhat recognized Hutu memories, unrecognized Hutu memories, and unrecognized memories of ethnically mixed Rwandans. What is evident is that much work remains to be done in terms of memorization.
3.4. Prevalence of unhealed wounds
The vast majority of Rwandans still bear the scars of the genocide despite the fact that 27 years have elapsed after this tragedy. During our study, it was revealed that the prevalence of those scars is due to limited safe spaces where various segments of Rwandans can meet and express their wounds. Also, it was noted that actors in the healing process are themselves wounded and we are experiencing a scenario where ‘medical doctors are at the same time patients’.
The prevalence of unexpressed wounds has been recently highlighted by the Rwanda Reconciliation Barometer (NURC, 2020). It was shown that 26.9% of Rwandans perceive that non healed wounds caused by genocide and divisive ideology constitute a threat to sustainable peace, unity and reconciliation. The commission (NURC, 2020, p. 174) recommended that safe spaces be created to allow free expression of historical trauma and wounds.
Actors involved in peace education be they public or civil society organizations should create safe spaces (secure places) for dialogue and listening sessions in small groups. Those spaces should be well structured for participants to feel comfortable and share their wounds or suffering. [Les acteurs impliqués dans la consolidation de la paix, tant publiques que ceux des organisations de la société civile, devraient créer des espaces sûrs (lieux sécurisés) pour le dialogue et des séances d’écoute en petits groupes. Ces espaces devraent être bien structurés pour que les gens se sentent confortables pour partager leurs souffrances].
This wakeup call comes after realizing that existing social cohesion driven platforms (e.g. Ndi Umunyarwanda sessions) had been diverted into forums for rushed apology and forgiveness (NURC, 2021).
3.5. Peace education and temporality
At this juncture the puzzle is about stability and change in terms of content and approaches to peace education. The question becomes whether peace education should restrict and confine itself to genocide and other ethnic identity related problems or there is a room for considering other issues that affect profoundly the lives of Rwandans and constitute a serious threat to the social fabric. These threats to peace include for instance, family conflict, teenage pregnancy, increasing cases of suicide and homicide, gender social norms and interpretations, the growing unemployment, issues related to current expropriation and compensation instances. In the materials we collected, other potential aspects to be considered in peace education were highlighted. These include rule of law, human rights, catering for in and out-of-school children with disabilities, sexual reproductive health education, non-violent communication, healing from past trauma, resilience and adaptation, citizen participation in decision making processes, and family decision making.
Essentially what is at issue is to know whether it is healthy to entertain a one-size-fits-all content and pedagogy of peace education. Is openness in content and form desirable in peace education? In the context of Rwanda, the critical question is to establish what should remain and change in peace education 27 years after the genocide. In the materials we collected it is apparent that stability and homogeneity in peace education were brought into question. Consider the following respondent’ opinion.
I would say that people who are involved in peace education do not address issues of diversity. You find out that men and women as well as youth are given same content or we use same methodology which I think is not a good strategy. If we want to address sensitive or difficult topics then we should address them depending on the category of people and their specific needs not only in peace education even in other fields, people are taken as homogeneous. (MKT)
In conclusion, tensions and contradictions discussed in this section call for a re-examination of both content and approaches to peace education as it is conducted by various actors in post genocide Rwanda. Such a re-examination would involve all actors involved in peace education, i.e. state and non-state actors. Also, a more coordinated effort across all peace education actors would allow a thoughtful discussion of these tensions with a view to indicate the best way to resolve them.
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