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 stand 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
Since 2014, USIP has been partnering with universities across Afghanistan to develop a curriculum-based peacebuilding and conflict resolution course. The initial efforts started when USIP partnered with Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education (GIHE), a private higher education academic institution in Kabul to develop the curriculum which was approved by the Afghan Ministry of Higher Education (MoHE) in 2015. This approved curriculum has been translated into both Dari and Pashto. Today, USIP has partnered with three more universities to continue implementing and further improving the curriculum-based peace studies course. In addition, USIP continues to mentor faculty from its initial three universities in participatory pedagogy. These universities are in the process of taking full ownership of teaching the course every semester as a two-credit mandatory elective for all students to take before graduating.
Additionally, USIP has guided 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.
Through this program, USIP has led the way 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. This is particularly important because many young Afghans believe that there are not enough opportunities on or off campus to build their research skills.
By the Numbers
Since launching the Peace Education Program in Afghanistan, students from six universities across Afghanistan have taken the course:
- Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education: Since 2014, 1,761 students at GIHE and have taken the two-credit peacebuilding and conflict resolution course.
- Herat University: Since 2016, 1,699 students at HU have taken the two credit curriculum based peacebuilding and conflict resolution course.
- Nangarhar University: Since 2016, 946 students at NU have taken the two-credit curriculum-based peacebuilding and conflict resolution course.
- In 2018, USIP partnered with Kandahar University, Shaikh Zayed University, Khost, and Alberoni University, Kapisa and 45 faculty have been trained in the curriculum to teach the course.
- After completing the course, students at each university have formed peace clubs and organized over 50 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.
Peace Cricket Tournament. Sheikh Zayed University’s Peace Center initiated a cricket tournament between university departments. The tournament provided an opportunity to have students and faculty from different departments engage in peacebuilding through sports.
Helmand Peace Caravan. Individuals from Kandahar University joined the Helmand Peace Caravan in May 2018. The Helmand Peace Caravan started their journey from Helmand province and stayed in Kabul for a few weeks in front of the U.S. Embassy. The Caravan members met with President Ashraf Ghani as well as members of parliament and High Peace Council and shared their demands.
Female Student becomes Peace Club President at Herat University. On June 24, 2018 Herat University’s Peace Center carried out its election to elect new leadership for the Peace Club. The outgoing leadership who graduated from the university facilitated the event and shared their experience with the new members. The election included nominations for a new president, vice president and subcommittee members the new president, vice presidents (2), and subcommittee leads positions for the Peace Club. Based on the results, a female president was elected.