By Joyce Wamae
Peacebuilding is a continuous process towards creating a community and society that is stable and peaceful. The process of peacebuilding specifically seeks to strengthen and restore relationships; transform institutions and systems that often promote injustice in and among pastoralists’ societies and communities. Education is one of the most powerful agents of change within any society and that is why SCCRR is committed to delivering high-quality training and capacity-building in the communities we work with. Over the years, Shalom has been committed to promoting positive peace amongst inter-ethnic pastoralist societies in Northern Kenya. SCCRR primarily does this through the various intensive trainings offered to the pastoralists’ communities to equip them in handling conflict constructively as well as encouraging values and activities conducive to peacebuilding.
Presently, our activities have concentrated on seven counties in Kenya, partnering with local communities, opinion-shapers, government institutions and other key stakeholders needed to secure lasting peace. Shalom is also committing to the development of inter-ethnic schools as a means of fostering greater cooperation and relationships between competing ethnic groups. Schools are often at the heart of community life, and so, by partnering with them, it is our aim to increase the capacities of children, parents, teachers and the wider community to prevent, reduce and cope with conflict as well as learning to take initiative in the promotion of sustainable peace in their communities.
We firmly believe that if children are exposed early to peace values, in formal or informal learning sessions, they then have the ability to influence constructively for peace in their environments and become peace agents. If they learn values of tolerance, mutual respect and that peace is vital for their own personal and communal development, they are more likely to actively resist pressures that encourage violent and destructive approaches when facing communal difficulties. Therefore, we are pleased to report the recent introduction of peace education in inter-ethnic schools in four counties in Kenya: Turkana, Samburu, West Pokot, and Marsabit.
This focus developed as a result of our research findings in the areas mentioned above which indicate that the young people are usually both victims and perpetrators in the various violent conflicts that take place in these areas. It also emerged that children often were involved in activities that cause violence quite early on in life, which indicated that early intervention is necessary. Early exposure and involvement in violence contributes to an ongoing cycle that must be broken if these areas are to emerge from decades of destructive and debilitating conflict. Therefore, our organization has been invited by the diocese of Lodwar, Maralal, Kitale, and Marsabit to try and rectify this issue and forge another, more constructive path for young people.
SCCRR is empowering children in both primary and secondary schools in these areas with skills and knowledge in the area of peace and conflict resolution; enabling them to become peace scholars and practitioners whilst stressing the reality that peace is key in order for access to education and emphasising that education is the gateway to true development and growth. This is achieved through encouraging membership in peace clubs, supplying an easy-to-implement peace manual with lessons and materials for teachers and pupils to engage with meaningfully. This is a document designed to support the local teaching staff in enhancing knowledge, skills and attitudes in peace building through the various topics it covers relating to both conflict and peace at local, regional and international levels. This manual helps widen teachers and pupils’ knowledge, skills and attitudes in peace building, thus promoting a culture of peace within the school and community as a whole. It is designed to be used during the peace club meetings that are encouraged to take place once a week in every participant school. As part of our commitment to the schools involved, SCCRR provides practical support such as building classrooms, libraries, providing stationary, desks and solar panels to enhance learning opportunities.
Recently, Shalom worked with Morijo primary school in Maralal, Samburu County. It was in a terrible state of disrepair with many pupils sharing broken desks and torn books but with our intervention, the boarding school was provided with desks, stationary, text books and solar panels. We have been delighted to hear that this has improved the performance of the students and the school has seen a rise in the enrollment of students from the Pokot tribe as well as hosting a large number of Samburus.
Another recent encouraging development comes from Suguta Primary School, where the peace club members initiated a project together and built speed bumps that help prevent accidents in Suguta town. This activity reportedly managed to bring together the Pokots, Turkanas and Samburus who are often normally involved in violent conflict with each other in the area. This kind of constructive behavior can help lay foundations towards long-lasting and sustainable peace between these competing groups and we are committed to supporting them in every way possible.
In every society, children and young people are often seen as the hope for a society’s future. In Kenya, it is no different. If children and young people can catch the vision of a peaceful and just society at an early age, the potential for change and positive transformation is huge. Therefore, it is our aim to continue supporting, equipping and delivering peace education to inter-ethnic schools in pastoralist communities in Kenya struggling with conflict.