By Mary Koech
Shalom Center for Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation works to end the cycle of violence in the tribal lands of Eastern Africa in order to contribute to a society where social Justice and Reconciliation prevails. One of the approaches used by SCCRR is to equip local key stakeholders with peace-building skills so as to empower them to resolve their conflicts. Shalom also conducts research into various conflicts among ethnic groups in the north of Kenya and also holds problem-solving workshops, which is a slow process of re-building relationships among ethnic groups. Recognizing that children are the future of this society, Shalom’s other approach is to instill a culture of peace and reconciliation in primary school children through the formation of Peace Clubs.
The importance of having a Peace Club in an inter-ethnic school is based on increasing interaction outside the classroom and have the children develop peace-building skills that they can use among themselves and apply in their community. Children are able to share their experiences, and build lifetime bonds that are not dictated by one’s ethnicity.
Earlier this year in April, Shalom visited Suguta Mar Mar Primary School in Samburu County with an aim of establishing a Peace Club there. The school has children from the Samburu, Turkana, Rendille, Meru, Kikuyu, Somali and Pokot ethnic groups. Students were informed about the establishment of a new Peace Club and many signed up to be part of it, approximately 40 students and a patron; one of their teachers.
In July, 2016 Shalom visited the Club members and presented the SCCRR Peace Manual that would act a guide for the Club. The Club had already written down their slogan, their elected Club leaders and even some activities that they proposed to do within the year 2016. Some of the activities include planting trees, presenting plays to the school during parade and visiting the elderly in their community. They expressed their interest in holding activities with students from other schools in order to build relationships with them. The Club was introduced to the school and the faculty and some parents.
This initiative was greatly welcomed by not only the faculty and students but also by the parents of the children. Mama Miriam, a parent of a Grade 7 student stated: “this Peace Club will enable our children to have confidence to stand up for Peace and be desirable leaders in our society. We encourage you to keep up the good work and we as parents are willing to support you where we can.”
Shalom continues to establish more Peace Clubs in schools especially in those that are highly disadvantaged and affected by conflict in order to mould young peace ambassadors.