From Peaceful Schools to Peaceful Communities in Pakistan

Barmak Pazhwak

Pakistan's southern city of Karachi is increasingly rife with ethnic and sectarian violence. Endemic violence affects youth in particular, as they learn to use hostile action as the principal way to resolve conflict. Education plays a primary role in the attitudinal development of youth, but Karachi schools have yet to teach Pakistani youth how to effectively handle and mitigate local conflict.

Reflecting the Institute's commitment to utilizing cost-effective approaches to empower others with knowledge, skills and resources that promote the peaceful resolution of conflict, USIP supports Pakistani nonprofit organizations working to provide students with the ability to manage conflict and generate conditions that engender peace.  With the support of USIP, Peaceful Schools International (PSI) is working on education programs in 25 Karachi schools that will equip students with the knowledge and skills required to reject violence and resolve conflict peacefully.  PSI is also creating a supplementary school project that linksstudents in Pakistan and Canada to encourage cross-cultural communication and understanding.

Over the past two years, more than 390 teachers and 100 administrators and policymakers have attended PSI's peace education workshops.  The workshops provide an interactive opportunity for participants to understand the tenets of peace education and how peace education is best integrated into classroom curriculum and school activities, while using a training-of-trainers model to prompt participants to share their emerging knowledge and skills with colleagues. Additionally, parent workshops are underway that feature an overview of the peace education initiatives being conducted in their children's schools, as well as positive discipline strategies for use outside of the classroom.  

PSI has already felt the impact of their work through the interest it has generated in the target communities.  PSI is ramping up their partnership with the Sindh governmental Education Office to expand peace education to schools throughout the province and has introduced peace education to the Memon Education Board that administers 143 local schools.

PSI has also shared their peace education course and teaching methods with other organizations working in Pakistan, such as CARE International and the Zareef Khan Foundation (ZKF).  Care International will initiate peace education at 16 schools in Swat District and ZKF is training teachers working in Peshawar.  A Peaceful Schools Guidebook is being produced to serve as the basis for future peace education courses in Pakistan.

While the immediate effects of peace education are evident in students' improved behavior, USIP and PSI are providing youth in Pakistan with a deeper behavioral foundation that ultimately encourages nonviolent conflict resolution and contributes to a more peaceful society in the long term.

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February 23, 2012