Afghanistan’s next generation of leaders have an opportunity to break out of the cycles of violence that have caused civil wars, insurgencies, and widespread human rights abuses and domestic violence over the past decades. To do this, government officials and community leaders need to have practical skills to identify sources of conflict and know how to de-escalate tensions and negotiate peaceful solutions.
On top of longstanding tensions that lead to violence, youth in university campuses in Afghanistan are vulnerable targets for recruitment by radical groups including violent extremists. Providing university campuses with resources to develop and teach peaceful conflict resolution tools and techniques enables students and faculty members to fight for their rights and to oppose violent extremism through peaceful and non-violent means.
Since 2014, USIP has worked with public and private universities as well as the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) to develop a peace and conflict studies curriculum that can be taught by universities across the country. The courses teach students practical life skills such as negotiation, problem solving, and active listening that they can apply in their everyday lives.
By developing and institutionalizing such education programs, USIP is helping to develop a cadre of conflict resolution experts that will contribute to securing peace in Afghanistan. Students apply non-violent approaches learned in the classroom to promote conflict resolution and contribute to building durable peace in Afghanistan.
Building Peace and Conflict Resolution Programs in Universities
USIP partnered with Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education (GIHE), a private higher education academic institution in Kabul, to develop a curriculum-based peace and conflict studies course. In the spring of 2015, MoHE endorsed the curriculum to be taught as a two-credit course. Since then, additional universities have taken interest in developing a similar program. In 2016, USIP partnered with the public universities in Herat and Nangarhar. USIP now aims to scale up its peace education program by partnering with four additional universities.
Many young Afghans believe that there are not enough opportunities on campus or outside of campus to build research skills. USIP has worked with students and faculty in partner universities to create Peace Clubs, which engage the entire campus community on issues and activities that promote unity and peaceful relations among different campus communities. Students that have taken the course in turn have also demonstrated increased civic participation in their communities through community outreach activities. USIP works to develop students’ research skills through research methods workshops, field research, and contributing to the university’s quarterly peace journal which includes articles and opinion pieces by students and faculty.
USIP is also currently working with the MoHE to expand its technical capacity so that it can better design and manage the national peace and conflict studies curriculum.
By the Numbers:
- 1,363 students at GIHE and 762 students at HU have taken the two credit curriculum based peacebuilding and conflict resolution course.
- 192 students at GIHE, 200 students at HU, and 60 students at NU have participated in peacebuilding and conflict resolution workshops.
- After completing the course, students at each university have formed peace clubs and organized over 35 activities, including debates, site clean-ups, and blood drives.
Training to Teach Peace Education and Conflict Resolution in Grade Schools
The inclusion of peace education in Afghan middle schools and high schools can be vital in significantly reducing violence among students and in turn getting youth to reject extremist ideology. In 2015, USIP partnered with Help the Afghan Children (HTAC), in close collaboration with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Education, to develop a peace education curriculum for grades 7-12. HTAC has since trained 1,800 teachers from six teacher training colleges in Parwan, Kabul and Nangarhar provinces to teach peace education. The pilot curriculum is being tested in local schools by the Ministry of Education and Teachers Education Department before a decision is made on whether peace education will become a standard nationwide course.
Blood Drive Against Violence. Over the 2016 winter break, students from Nangarhar University Peace Club with support from Nangarhar Directorate of Public Health organized a blood drive within Nangarhar University. The slogan of the Blood Drive was “Stop Bloodshed and Donate Blood to Save Lives”. Over a hundred students, university faculties and staff, and local community members donated blood. Interest outpaced supply during the blood drive as supplies ran out before more people could donate blood. The event received wide attention on social media and television.
Creating a Peace Park. Since September 2016, students from Herat University have worked with community stakeholders to build a Peace Park. The park aims to serve as a green space for Heratis to come together to reflect on peaceful coexistence. One female engineering student designed the park. The foundation of the Peace Park coincided with International Peace Day, and the Governor of Herat Province, the Herat University Chancellor, and Chair of the Provincial High Peace Council attended the commemoration to support the student’s hard work.