Thursday, December 29, 2011

Peace & unity Initiative


This initiative is proposed to work by bring together at least 10 youths from diverse cultures and faiths to participate in a series of at least 5 discussion sessions intended to get them reflect on the multicultural realities of our local community, and bring up questions on this reality and at the end, bring up possible modification to any part of the reality which is perceived to require a transformation for the better.

The aim will be:
 Create a body of documents on the contributions of participants during the sessions.
 Document the points of agreement and those which the different groups conflict.
 Most important of all, the sessions should serve as an interactive forum that will enable the youths to build bridges amongst themselves by being able to express their views and listening to the views of peers. By hearing diverse viewpoints, they’d be better equipped to be able to see things from the eyes of others.
 Guide them to use their newly garnered knowledge, skills and behaviours to influence their peers in the society

We held our second contact meeting on Sunday, with all 10 initial participants in attendance (2 more youths (Males) joined us having heard of the initiative from their friends).
I opened the discussions with prayers focused on divine guidance for our efforts.
I then went ahead and suggested we settle some preliminary issues about our meetings:
1. I suggested we decide for a format for contributions to discussions so as to allow everyone a fair chance of contributing. I asked for suggestions and the most widely accepted suggestion was that after my opening remarks, everyone should be given an equal amount of time to contribute his views or suggestions to any issue. After everyone had made a contribution, I was then to review the contributions and then, anyone with additional contributions could signify his intention.

Someone added that we each person should be allowed 10 minutes, and we
unanimously agreed to that suggestion.

I then went ahead and explained my expectation of the contributions, that speakers should try their best to air their views exactly the way they felt them and that abusive, derogatory, or direct criticisms were to be avoided. I went on to tell them that instead of someone accusing one tribe/religious faith of a certain action, I’d prefer the speaker point out the action as to how it affects him/her as a person, or his/her group, And ask the other group why they do what they do, and if they knew anyone was being hurt by that action?

2. I then went ahead and suggested that for the first two weeks, we focus on 2 questions thus:
a. What are the causes of ethnic/religious based conflict in our community?

b. Is there any practical action that we could take to prevent such conflicts?

I went on to speak about the fact that all of us gathered in the room were of diverse tribal origins and religious faiths, but we basically all stood to gain from peaceful coexistence in the community just as we all stood to lose from the outbreak of violence in the community.

I now delved into a brief explanation on the concept of Positive/Negative peace, Physical/Structural violence. (Maybe it was the teacher in me, but I ended up using the chalkboard to highlight my points). This was to widen the scope of thinking of the participants, so that they will go beyond the point of considering peace as being
the Absence of physical violence.
I then raised the issue of the need for a general scribe to write down the important notes during our discussions.

My opening speech took about 20 minutes, after which I for contributions on the first of the two questions we were to treat for the first two weeks.
(What are the causes of ethnic/religious based conflict in our community?)

The various speakers proffered diverse reasons for the present conflict situation in which we found ourselves.
Among the identified reasons were:
 Low literacy level among the indigenous residents compared to the non-indigenes;
 Lack of employment opportunities, leading to youths loafing around aimlessly;
 Nonexistent or poor channels of communication between the different
 Ineffective security system;
 Lack of purposeful leadership from political and religious leaders;
 Misconceptions held by the different tribes about the others, due to
lack of proper information

We then divided the participants into 3 groups to meet, and reflect on the identified causes. The groups were to meet before the next meeting on Thursday to critically look at these causes and try understanding how they came to be. I added that at this point, we were not yet looking for solutions, but seeking to understand the problems and how they came to become part of our present realities.

Each group was to appoint a Scribe from amongst them to write out a summary of their findings for deliberation at the next meeting.

Someone suggested that instead of holding the meetings at one fixed place (Our Computer school premises), that we rotate the venue among the participants. I supported the idea and suggested that every participant should see if s/he can conveniently host the meeting.

I suggested an additional task for participants, each of the participants should research into his religion’s concept of peaceful Coexistence. Everyone was to submit his/her findings by next Sunday.

It was at that point that we brought the meeting to a close with a short prayer by one of the participants.

One important thing I noted was the fact that the atmosphere was very free and there was no hostility either in the behaviors of the participants or in their speeches. Everyone seemed to understand that Peace was a mutually beneficial to all of us.

I look forward to Thursday‘s meeting when the groups will submit their
findings on the identified causes..


Held on Thursday, 22 – 09 – 2011

All the groups had earlier submitted the reports of their group meetings earlier in the day before the meeting proper.
Upon going through all the submissions, two important facts were generally noted by all groups – That:

 Members of the different ethnic groups and religious faiths resident in the community lived peacefully together in the past! And,
 That it was later that the seeds of discord were sown among the people.

At the meeting proper, all participants were present for the Thursday meeting, which started at about 6:30 PM at our school premises. I opened the session with prayers and thanks to all members for their commitment. I then asked if anyone had a question, or comment before we started out on the day’s business.

Two members spoke briefly, the first asked if we were going to continue the meetings after the initial Two-month period I had earlier planned, I responded by saying it all depended on their readiness to go ahead, but that my aim was to ensure by the end of the Two month period we were able to achieve something concrete from this discussions. Other members expressed a lot of signs of support and
readiness to go on

The second member suggested that we change the format for the meetings. That we dedicate Thursdays for Group meetings, and Sundays for General House discussions on the findings of the group meetings, I saw sense in her suggestion and asked if the other members supported, and there was unanimous support for the idea, and we thus adopted it immediately.

I opened the discussions with my observations on the reports of the groups. I noted that if we all seemed to agree that people in the area lived peacefully in the past with no tribal or religious conflict. What then were the reasons for the current situation we found ourselves?, and what were the causes for the negative change in the living conditions of the people?. I thus suggested for the day’s discussions, we focused on:
1. How were the people in the past able to live together peacefully without their tribal and religious differences leading to violence?
2. What were the things that destroyed the unity and understanding formerly enjoyed in the community?

They all supported the topics, and we went on to listen to everyone’s opinions on the first topic.

In the course of the speeches, the following factors were generally accepted as being responsible for the peaceful coexistence in the past:

 Mutual respect for diverse cultures;
 Well entrenched family values and communal values like:
o Honesty,
o Compassion,
o Respect for strangers,
o Respect for elders,
o Well defined channels of communication between diverse groups,
 Economic Prosperity;
 Sincere patriotic ideologies by politicians, etc.

One speaker added that it might be useful to invite some elders from the society to speak on communal interaction in their days, and all the members agreed with him.
We then decided to invite two elders (A Muslim cleric who is an indigene of the area, and a Christian Pastor who is a non indigene).

Some members were delegated to contact them to inform them of the invitation. We agreed that to give them enough time, they should give their talk on the 2nd October 2011.

Due to time constraints, I decided we should close the meeting for the day.
I however asked everyone to go home and reflect individually on the factors responsible for the destruction of the entrenched peace in the community, so that we could focus on that at our next meeting on Sunday 25th September.

I further proposed that we suspend discussions on solutions till a later date, after we had heard from the invited elders, so that we could possibly incorporate their submissions and also seek their support for any action we may decide on in future.
The meeting ended with prayers at 8:25 PM.


Held on Sunday, 25 – 09 – 2011

This meeting started at 4:15 PM at the premises of our school.
All members were in attendance with the exception of one young man who
had travelled out of town for a University entrance examination and had not returned back.

After prayers and general greetings, I asked the team send to the invited elders for their report. They reported back that the elders had shown great enthusiasm and support for our efforts and had confirmed their attendance on Sunday 2nd October. I promised checking on them before the date to brief them on the initiative (As I had not informed them of our initiative before sending the invitation).
I now went ahead to ask if anyone had some special comments or submissions. One member stood up to inform the meeting that his elder brothers wife had given birth to a baby girl last Wednesday, and he wished all participating members of this initiative to attend the Naming ceremony next week. I then added that this will be a good opportunity to start showing practical actions aimed at showing unity
among us. The member inviting us is a non-indigene Christian, and it will be a good way for us to send positive signals to the community to see both Christians and Muslims attending and playing active roles in the Naming ceremony. (It is a rarity to see members of either faith attending ceremonies organized by each other.

There was general agreement that we should all attend the ceremony and in fact some members promised being there early to help up in the tasks on the day. We finally agreed to meet at our meeting place (the school) early in the day and move to the venue together.

I then went ahead to inform them of a tuition-free ICT skills acquisition / Peace Education programme my NGO ( was organizing in October, and asked participants who were not computer-literate to apply to be part of the programme.

We went on directly to the topic of the day: (the factors responsible for the destruction of the entrenched peace in the community).

After all the speeches, the following factors were identified:
 Loss of family values;
 Unemployment;
 Drug abuse by youths;
 Lack of respect elders and community leaders due to loss of credibility;
 Loss of moral standards;
 Silent inbuilt anger brought about by use of derogatory words by the various groups to describe one another;
 Lack of proper channels of communication between the diverse tribal groups and religious faiths;
 Misconceptions about cultures and religious faiths;
 Misinformation and propaganda by politicians. etc.

At the end, I asked the participants if they thought we could do anything about the situation based on our findings, there was unanimous agreement that we could do some things to counter these factors.

I then suggested all groups at their next group meetings on Thursday, to discuss possible practical actions we could take to effect changes in the current situation, and submit written submissions on their suggestions. I further explained that after each group had submitted their suggestions at the next meeting (Sunday 2nd October), the different suggestions will be exchanged among the groups and the
suggestions from the invited elders added to it.

The groups will now go on to reflect on the various suggestions and make their recommendations at the general meeting at a later date which will now discuss the various suggestions and agree on which actions to implement.


We had earlier on Wednesday, 28th September, attended the Naming ceremony as planned. The attendance raised some eyebrows but there was no direct condemnation of the action of the youths. Only one parent (A Muslim) came and asked me why his child had attended a Christian Naming Ceremony. Luckily, he was ready to listen to my explanations. I talked to him about our observations on the current lack of unity in the community and reminded him of how it had been in the past. I then explained to him that it had nothing to do with changing anyone’s
religious beliefs, and that we were only trying to build a spirit of unity and cooperation among the youths to guide them towards peaceful existence in the community. He at last said he understood and that he was now convinced and had no misgivings.

On Thursday, 30th September 2011, I paid a visit to Mal. Aminu Idris, a respected Islamic Cleric who had always been well known for preaching for unity and understanding among all the ethnic groups in the community. He was one of the two elders who had invited to give a talk at our next meeting on Sunday.

I met him at his home in the evening and explained the reasons for the initiative and that while I was using it for an academic project; I saw it as an opportunity to get the youths talking to one another. He praised the efforts and said we had his support and that we had his support.

I then went on to explain to him that the reason for inviting to give the talk was for the youths to hear viewpoints from elderly religious leaders on the issue of unity and cooperation in the community. I told him that we expected him to talk to the youths about how communal interactions were in the past, reasons for deterioration of relations and suggestions on how we could bring back harmonious living among the people.
He thanked me for giving him the opportunity to be part of our efforts and promised preparing for Sunday’s meeting.
I went on to the House of Pastor Samuel Edoh, a Pastor of the ECWA Church here in Hotoro. I also met him and intimated him of the reasons for the invitation and the issues we expected him to talk about. He also confirmed his attendance.

All the participants had arrived by 4:00 PM and they had all submitted the reports of their various group meetings which contained their proposed suggestions for practical actions we could take on the peace situation in the locality.

The two invited guests (Mal. Aminu Idris and Pastor Samuel Edoh) arrived at around 4:45 PM (They had been informed that the talks will start at 5PM).

I made copies of each group’s submissions and shared them among the other groups so that everyone had a copy of the other groups’ suggestions.

I then asked them to use their next group meetings on Thursday (12 – 10 – 2011) to discuss all the submissions and each group was to present the action it favoured most for implementation.

Mal. Aminu Idris, the Islamic cleric spoke first. After starting with opening prayers, he expressed thanks for being invited to give a talk at the meeting and said he was very happy about the initiative we were taking and promised us his support for our efforts.

He now started his speech with a very vivid description of how strangers from all over the country had begun to arrive in Hotoro quarters in the early 1970’s, and how they had been warmly received by their Hausa/Fulani hosts. Many of the strangers had come as a result of the setting up of industries and companies around the area, many others came on their own to set up private businesses.

He went on to describe how the settlers who came had been warmly received by their hosts and got affordable accommodation in the area, with some of them going ahead to purchase plots of land and build houses.

He noted that while some of the strangers practiced the same Islamic religion as the hosts, many others practised different religious faiths, but notwithstanding, both the settlers and the indigenes adhered to the age long universally accepted cultural ideals of respect for authority, communal cooperation, and nonviolent conflict resolution.
He further added that the settlers respected the customs they met their hosts practicing and gave full respect to the style of constituted authority they met at their new homes.

He also explained that in the past, elders from both groups had full authority and responsibility for the molding of the moral behaviour of the local youths without any discrimination. If an elder from among the settlers saw indigene youths doing something wrong, they took appropriate action to stop them and got full support from indigene elders.
Settlers, he said, were even appointed into Elders’ Councils and other local decision making bodies.

He said traditional rulers and religious leaders in the past promoted unity, cooperation and mutual respect for diversity. There were exchanges of visits between traditional rulers from all parts of the country, and he said this helped forge and atmosphere of unity and understanding among the peoples.

Political leaders on their part were always emphasizing the need for peaceful coexistence among the people and none of them promoted the divisive ideals of ethnocentrism or religious bigotry.

All the children in those days attended the same schools and thus grew up together knowing each other and accepting one another as brothers and sisters.

He said te problems started from the breakdown of family values in the society leading to loss of respect for elders and constituted authority. Children started growing up with no respect for elders (Indigenous or otherwise) and in some cases, when they misbehaved, and an elder (other than their biological parents) attempted correcting them on some social or moral lapses, their parents stood up to protest
what they termed to be “undue interference” by outsiders. The children therefore started growing up without a guiding social structure to build their sense of what was right and what was wrong in the society.

Another factor he pointed out was the withering away of cooperative interactions among religious leaders of both faiths. Instead of seeing each other as joint workers in the task of moral and spiritual guidance, each group promoted a “ours is the only correct way, all other ways are wrong” philosophy. Religious clerics on both sides started preaching divisive sermons that in some cases called for open
hostility against other faiths.

He said the worst part was the effect of the advent of the military in governance in the country which saw soldiers led by a General from one part of the country overthrowing an administration led by another General from a different part of the country, these coups and counter-coups were sometimes bloody leading to heavy loss of lives.

Considering the fact that leadership in our context is mostly not about service, but more about enjoying the perks of power and using political power to loot public funds, each part of the country wanted to see their people in positions of power, and this led to inbuilt anger against anyone who possesses them of that “opportunity”.

This ethnocentric feeling continued well into the advent of partisan politics, with political support being based more on ethnicity and religious considerations.

Politicians found this warped thinking that pervaded the polity useful and capitalized on it to spread divisive ethnocentric and religious propaganda in their attempts to gain votes during electioneering. When accused of mismanagement of public resources and other misdemeanor, either when in office or out of it, they blamed faceless opponents from other ethnic groups or religious faiths. He said as this was happening at the local level, it filtered down to the local community here in Hotoro, leading to a high level of mistrust (and silent anger/hatred) among the diverse groups living together.

He said the politicians further aggravated the matters by neglecting youth empowerment and instead preferring to use uneducated and unemployed youths as political thugs for wrecking violence on political opponents during elections. These youths are fed with ethno-phobic and extremist religious propaganda. They are further given deadly weapons and hard drugs to carry out deadly activities on
behalf of their patrons.

After elections, these youths are left to their fates with no visible policy for empowering them or rehabilitating them into the society. With the lax security situation in the country, hard drugs are widely available to these youths who mostly become frustrated and disillusioned with the society which they feel has been unfair to them.

He said with above factors in mind, the slightest provocation (or seeming likeness of it) is enough to turn into violent conflicts.
He said when people live together, but see one another as enemies, every little action from each group is given meanings which in many situations may actually not be true, and that due to lack of functional communication channels between the ethnic groups and religious faiths, there was little opportunity for mutual
understanding of each other’s ways of life.

He said our initiative was a welcome idea and that he believed that we could use these weekly meetings to bring back unity among the youths in the area.
He ended his long speech by promising to give us any support we needed in our efforts.
The whole hall went silent for some seconds after the speech before it
broke into a loud applause; everyone was touched by the truth of his


After the Imam’s speech, we then proceeded for a break for refreshments (made up of baked pie and soft drinks prepared by the girls in the group).

On our return from the break, the Pastor took the stage, and he started by praising us for our initiative saying that it was heartwarming for him to see youths initiating such ideas and that if they, the elders, were not ready to take the lead, it was only
imperative for the youths to do something because the future was theirs.

He said he agreed totally with the speech of the Imam and that instead of repeating all the things he had already talked about, he’d instead focus on the current reality and what can be done to positively change the society.

He started by focusing on the home, which he said was the root of all successes or failures of an individual in the society.

He said the type of upbringing children received from the home determines their behaviour in the wider society and that there was a need for a transformation of our socio-cultural values right from the home.

He said parents needed to adopt and portray strong ethical standards of living themselves and also guide their wards to imbibe these values. He said parents who are in themselves morally bankrupt could not be expected to give correct moral guidance to youths.

Still talking about the home, he said there was a need to take action about the incidence of broken homes in the society that had reached alarming proportions. He said there was a need for religious leaders and community elders to create ways of providing guidance counseling for young married couples and those just preparing to get married. This, he said, was to help them settle down to marital life.

He noted that a lot of marriages in our community broke up after a year or two during which the couple might have given birth to a child or two who’d then have to go through life without the needed support of both parents. He said most children from such broken homes grow up without proper moral guidance and were most likely to go into crime or indulge in violence under the influence of their peers as they grew up.

He informed us that his church had only recently set up a guidance-counseling unit that held periodic meetings with young couples to offer them advice on marital issues and help them in resolving any conflict they may be having.

He further talked about the negative effect political propaganda was having on the peaceful coexistence that once prevailed in the society. He said many politicians were using ethnicity and religious propaganda to spread divisive ideas among the populace. Noting that while their motives were self-enrichment, these politicians spread messages of hatred among the people.

Seeing that time was against us, he summarized the other factors responsible for the breakdown of unity in the community as follows:

 Poverty,
 Illiteracy,
 Lack of proper communication channels between the various religious
and community leaders in the society,
 High rate of drug abuse in the community,
 Inefficient security system,

He however noted that the misrepresentation of global news (especially those that related to religious faiths) sometimes led to unfounded rumours being spread in the community. He went on to suggest that for peaceful coexistence and unity to be reestablished in the society, all members of the society had roles to play and he specially listed the following sectors of the society as having critical roles to play in this important task:

 Parents,
 Teachers,
 Religious leaders,
 Community Elders,
 The mass media,
 Security Agencies,
 The political class,

In his closing remarks, he told us that he was giving us a donation of N10, 000 (App. US$80) to help in our activities and said his doors were always open to us at all times.
The house erupted into a thunderous applause at the end of his speech.

It was already getting late and we had to close the session at that point. Though I informed the youths that we should hold a meeting on Tuesday to discuss where we stood in our efforts.

I had already collected the various group submissions and by the end of the meeting, I shared out copies of the various reports among all the groups so that every group had a copy of what the others had suggested.

At the meeting on Tuesday, all the youths were in attendance and I shared out photocopies of the summary of the speeches of our Sunday guests. And we decided that the groups should all use the following two weeks to meet and reflect on all the factors we had discovered ourselves and the input from the Clergymen.

We now decided that each group was to suggest one practical action we could take to effect a change in the current situation.

We decided that the next general meeting should hold on Sunday, 16th October, 2011 to collate all submissions and reach a final decision.

During the two week period of the group activities, I met regularly with each group as they went about reaching a decision on their suggestions an d one important that I noticed was that there were series of meetings between the various groups themselves without me being invited (which I have to confess made me happy that they were taking charge themselves).

When I fell ill, they asked that we postpone the general meeting we had earlier scheduled for the 16th Oct., I however disagreed and instead asked them to go ahead and hold the meeting and see if they could reach a consensus on selecting the action we were to take from the various options being suggested by the various groups.

They agreed and went ahead and held the meeting. And after the meeting, they came and informed me that they had met and reached a consensus and agreed among the various options they had considered.


From the various submissions, they had decided that we should
implement one of the following actions:

1. Organize a Week long Unity Carnival during which there will be:
a. A public lecture for youths, with speakers from different
religious/cultural backgrounds.
b. A football match,
c. An interdenominational prayer session and,
d. A Street walk to end with the submission of a letter to the Local government Chairman calling for the establishment of a Local government Peace Committee.

2. Setting of Unity & Peace Clubs in all secondary schools in the area
which we will be supervising to guide them to learn more about
peaceful coexistence and unity.

When I reflected upon the two options they proposed, I saw that it was possible to merge both proposals and implement them in a step-by-step fashion.
Firstly, we go ahead with preparations for the Peace & Unity week, and then upon successfully organizing the weeklong activities, we go ahead and set about establishing the Peace & Unity Clubs in selected Secondary Schools (I suggested that we start with two schools in the beginning, and if it works out well, we’d expand further).
I told them my suggestions and the Group leaders were all supportive of my idea.
I then advised them to discuss my suggestion at their meeting on Thursday (27th Oct, 2011) to see if everyone agreed with this plan and to get any input anyone may have.
We held a general meeting today, Saturday, (29th October, 2011), and the group leaders informed me that the idea was acceptable to everyone.
We then held a discussion on when to fix the Peace & Unity week so that we could start making preparations.

It was decided that we should hold the P&U week at the end of November. That way, we had about 4 weeks to prepare.
We broke up the meeting into 4 committees for the organizing of the activities:

• Publicity,
• Finance,
• Activities,
• Logistics

Each committee was given a set of tasks to work on regarding what was needed for a successful P&U week. Every group is expected to sit, deliberate on its given aspect, and submit its report by next week Saturday when we’d be meeting.
The enthusiasm in the room today was simply great, and we also received donations from 2 other people, One was Imam Idris, who had spoken to us earlier. And the other was a local businessman. They each sent N5,000. This now brought the money we had to N20,000 which is a great boost for the activities we intend carrying out.
Considering that the Islamic Eid Celebration comes up next Sunday. We agreed that they Saturday meeting should be held in the morning to allow the Muslims among us the rest of the day to prepare for the celebration.
Importantly, the Imam had sent along with his donation, an invitation to all of us to visit him at his house on the Monday after the Eid Festival. Which is another big opportunity to get everyone together. I am even considering seeing if I could get some Christian elders to join us for this visit.

I have just proposed some adjustments to the project after some reflections.

When I first reached out to the youths at the start of this project,
my objectives were basically two:

1. To fulfill the academic requirements of the TWB ICTM (PEd);
2. To use the knowledge I had garnered in the course of the ICTM programme to guide the youths to imbibe some of the ideals of Peace education.

Both objectives are being fulfilled as I am going on but the impact the initiative is having on the youths is far bigger than I ever imagined and their willingness to further the expand the initiative has led me to reflect deeply on the direction we should be taking and the speed at which we should be moving to ensure maximum impact. I wouldn’t like an initiative that fizzles out due to lack of depth.
At an impromptu meeting I had with the Group leaders this evening, I spoke extensively about how far we had come, what we had already achieved, and I told them how happy I am to see them buying in to the ideals of peaceful coexistence, unity and cooperation among themselves and the wider society.

I went further to reiterate my full support for the idea of a Peace & Unity week and establishment of P&U Clubs in schools. But I said after my deep thinking on the weight of the job to be done, I thought it would be best if we fixed a new date for the week long Peace & Unity activities, preferably towards the end of the year.

Firstly, the Islamic Eid festival, which is highly significant comes up next week and its activities spread out for up to three weeks and our planned activities might get lost in the Eid celebrations and those we expect to participate might be held up by Eid celebrations.
Secondly, given more time, we’d be able to perfect all the necessary things without unneeded pressure due to time.

I suggested that in the intervening period before the P&U week, we go ahead with our twice weekly meetings (Sundays and Thursdays). Using the Sunday meetings for our usual lecture/discussions on Peace issues; while the Thursday meetings should now be devoted to making preparations for the P&U week.

All the Group leaders spoke out in support of my suggestions and saw how the extended time will allow us arrange a better activity.

I further suggested that the issue of establishment of the Peace & Unity Clubs should also be shelved till early next year; this is to allow us more time to fashion out the structure of the clubs. We agreed that the Group leaders will work together with me in creating a framework for the establishment of the School clubs.

Before dispersing, we concluded they should hold a meeting on Thursday to look into my suggestions and give their input before we finally take a final decision on Saturday.

I will not be attending the Thursday meeting because I will be travelling out of town that day.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Service Learning project

A Service Learning project that I could implement in my community is an environmental Sanitation project to teach students about the relationship between diseases like malaria and Diarrhea, and dirty environmental practices.

Groups will initially be given assignments to look for information on the relationship between Disease and Dirty environments. They are to use their normal brainstorming methods to get information that will help them understand the relationship. An added part of the assignment will be to suggest practical steps that can be taken to prevent the spread of diseases caused by dirty environmental practices.

From the group submissions, we could create pamphlets that will highlight the relationship between disease and dirt.

I’d further suggest we organize a One-day environmental sanitation activity to clean the gutters and surrounding environment of the school. If we are able to afford it, or can get support from the health department, we will include disinfection of the area as part of the project.

On the agreed date, all students will come out and participate physically in cleaning the school environment and the surrounding areas (The whole street will be considered if there are enough students)

Provision will be made to ensure all the dirt packed from the gutters and drainages are packed away. (Possibly by Local sanitary vans who will be informed before the date.)

In the course of the cleaning, the students will distribute the pamphlets they had earlier created.

This activity while allowing the students to research into the problem of environmental sanitation, offers me an opportunity to teach them how to create Pamphlets using Ms Publisher. They will also be contributing to make the community clean by actually coming out to work on the gutters and drainages. Sharing the pamphlets and serving as practical role models could motivate others in the community to follow suit.


A topic I could conveniently use is “Early marriages in our society and the education of the girl-child”.

This is a very prevalent problem in our community where girls are give out in marriage at very young ages, (sometimes as young as 10), the attendant negative effects are very appalling, scuttled education, health problems , psychological trauma, inability to cope with marital life due to unpreparedness etc.

This is a problem all the students can truly relate to, and will able to understand the causes of the problem, and its negative effects on the society.

The key objective of this simulation will be get students to better understand the negative effects of forced early marriages on the girls themselves, their families, and the society at large.

While most of the films and drama-plays staged on the issue end with a “Winners/Losers” situation, I’d prefer to create a simulation in which everyone will be a “winner”. The simulation I have in mind will require the following roles:
 The girl about to be forced into early marriage;
 A friend of the girl who had being forced into marriage earlier on;
 The parents trying to force their daughter into early marriage;
 The girl’s schoolteacher;
 A religious leader;
 An educated lady in the community;
 A medical expert;

I’d prefer the simulation to be one sided, focusing on only the girl’s part (to make it narrow, I’d leave out the husband-to-be, or only briefly introduce him to show the age difference).

The short storyline will be designed to highlight a girl about to be forced to leave school to be married to a much older man, with the various usual reasons given by the parents – the misconception that a woman didn’t need to be well educated and that her place is in the kitchen.

Someone should play the role of the girl’s mother who adamantly believes her daughter should get married to get a man to provide for her needs and have her own children.

A friend of the girl should be introduced to highlight the agonies she has faced from being forced to leave school to get married, she’d be attempting to let the girl see that it wasn’t as glamorous as it was being portrayed, and that she herself had gotten divorced because she couldn’t cope with marital life. She could also add health problems she is facing.

The Schoolteacher, Married Educated lady, Religious leader, and Medical expert are all to play roles of advocating for girl-child education from different perspectives, thus:
 The Schoolteacher: To show concern as a guide who is interested in the development of the girl and someone who has benefitted from being educated herself.
 Married Educated lady: Also to serve as a model of what advantages could be gained from being educated especially for a married woman.
 Religious leader: To highlight the importance Islam places on education in general and that of the girl-child especially.
 Medical expert: To highlight the possible dangers a young girl could encounter at childbirth or after, due to lack of well formed physical bodily organs. And also the psychological effects of a girl being forced to play a role of a woman, one for which she is not adequately prepared.

Though the topic is mine, I’d first ask the various groups to research into early marriages and its effects on the education of the girl child; from their results, we’d then share out roles to be played in a One-hour role play activity.

I feel the effects of this activity on their minds will be more lasting than simply teaching the subject from a textbook. I’d also give them free hand in choosing how to lay their allotted/chosen roles. Allowing them to play the roles with their styles or flavor.

If successful, it could be further enlarged into a full-fledged play to be staged in the school or the community.

Experiential Education - My Reflections

In my context, Cooperative learning is my most preferred form of teaching. The five tenets of Cooperative learning as outlined in the handbook are:
 Personal interdependence,
 Individual accountability,
 Group processing,
 Social skills and
 Face – to – face interactions

Teaching hands-on practical courses like Computer Application packages, it is really important that the students work together on the learning activities, sharing ideas and skills. In my classes, students work in groups of threes and above, and this has many advantages for the learning/teaching process.

Students’ capabilities for absorbing/processing information during learning activities vary from person to person. Some are fast learners who can absorb, process, and understand immediately, while some others need a longer time to achieve understanding. By working in groups, they are able to help one another along. This fosters a spirit of unity and cooperation among the students who in some cases come from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds. While guiding the students to acquire Computer skills is our main task,

In working in groups, the students learn to take responsibility both individually and collectively. Each member learns the value of contributing to the success of his/her group in their tasks. The sense of shared responsibility makes them learn the need for everyone to contribute his best to ensure the group as a whole achieves success. (In some instances, especially when an assignment has to do with souring for information, I request that each group member’s individual written contribution be submitted together with the final copy of the group assignment).

Combining a Cooperative learning method with a Thematic approach to curriculum implementation, I am also able to effectively integrate various important social issues into our learning activities requiring students to collectively source for information, brainstorm over their findings, and finally extract valuable knowledge which, while being used in acquiring Computer skills, also raises their awareness on societal issues.

In forming topics for group work, I try my best to ensure there are components that every member of the group will have an opportunity to contribute to, based on their individual intelligences. It may sometimes require subtle comments during groups asking for certain components to be included. E.g. If the task requires a written submission, I may ask that the front page be well designed with matching colors. This will give an artistic minded student an opportunity to feel part of the group.

Students also learn nonviolent conflict resolution skills and how to reach agreement on issues within the group context.

My role is of a laid back guide, not directly interfering with the activities of the groups, though always there to guide them along when they get stuck. For instance, when a group has a disagreement over a choice of topic to choose for a task, instead of selecting one of the choice for them, I’d rather guide them to go back and consider the two conflicting choices and maybe out of the two, create a new third choice which will be a compromise that satisfies both sides; or I may ask them to try going back to discuss the possibility of working on one of the options now and taking on the second one as an independent study project (I could only add my readiness to assess both when finished).

On the whole, Cooperative learning makes it possible for me to guide students to learn interpersonal relational skills and learn to respect diversities. While some of the students could be highly intelligent in most subjects, working in groups will also allow the others to bring in their individual intelligences into group work. Someone who was earlier regarded as being introverted or dull could turn out to have ideas or skills which will be the ones that save the group when they get stuck.

From the onset, I usually lay out to the groups that everyone must be given an equal chance to contribute, and if someone’s contribution is not going to be used, it must be only for reasons well understood by all.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


TOPIC: Is this Question Open or Closed?
TYPE: Standalone
TIME: 2 Hours
AGE GRADE: 16Yrs +
This activity is designed to guide learners to learn:
 The difference between Open and Closed Questions;
 How to develop and address Open and Closed questions

The teacher should start with an opening lecture to explain the concept of Open and Closed questions. Appropriate examples of both types should be used to ensure the students are able to differentiate between the two.
The class should then being divided into small groups and one person designated as a scribe to jot down the points of their discussions.
The teacher should then write out 2 – 3 topics/subject upon which questions would be formulated.
Each group should be assigned the task of creating 2 closed questions and 2 open questions on each topic/subject.

Suggested subjects/topics include:
 Education
 Why is important to be educated? - Open
 Is it important to be educated? - Closed

 Why should we forgive those who offend us? - Open
 Should we forgive those who offend us? - Closed

 How can we improve the number of girls who attend schools?
 Is it important to educate girls?

 Is respect important?
 In what ways can we show respect to elders?

The various groups should be given at least 15 minutes to brainstorm and formulate their questions, and then a representative from each group should read out the questions they created.
Upon reading out the questions and telling the class if they classified it as an Open question or a Closed question, the other members of the class should be asked to comment on the group’s classification, and if there is any objection, the objector should proffer his/her reason(s) and offer corrective suggestions.
The assessment should be seamless, allowing for corrections as the activity progresses. Instead of a “CORRECT or WRONG” assessment, it would be best if the teacher used guided questions to lead the students to understand the “WHY?”, if the classification of their question(s) is wrong.
For example, if a group classifies “Why do we go to school?” as a closed question (probably on the assumption that the only answer is ‘to learn how to read and write’); in this situation, the teacher could gvuide them with questions like “Don’t you think we also learn some other things in school apart from learning how to read and write?”. Such a question can get the group to think deeper and thus be able to attach a deeper meaning to attending school. If the first question sinks, the teacher could follow up with a question like “what are the other things you learn in school”. Etc.
In the course of carrying out this activity, it is expected that the students will understand that there are important things to be considered when crafting questions; they’d learn to ask questions that will produce answers that satisfies the questioner and possibly open up new angles to the issue being discussed, and thus lead to new discoveries.

Key components to creating powerful questions

The Three key components to creating powerful questions are construction, scope, and assumptions (Vogt et al, 2003).

Construction refers to the actual linguistic wording of the questions, which can impact its effectiveness. It is important for us as peace educators carefully craft our questions with the right words so as to ensure our audience clearly understands what is required of them. In crafting our questions we must avoid vagueness and use of words that could lead our audience to misconstrue what we actually mean. It is also essential to consider the students’ literary levels and linguistic competence when crafting questions. A question that is well understood by a University graduate class will make little sense to a group of primary school pupils.

Like it is rightly noted in the handbook, the scope of a question can be narrow or broad, depending on how it is asked. A narrower scope is often easier in terms of devising an action plan. Instead of asking a question that might seem larger than life to an audience, it will be best to craft the question to deal with a specific part of a reality and most importantly adapted to a context the audience can grasp. Instead of asking “How can we solve the problem of employment in the world?”, it might be best to ask “In what ways can we reduce the level of employment in Nigeria?”. The first question, in attempting to deal with the global perspective might produce impractical answers given simply to answer the teacher, while the second question could lead to answers that are directly related to our society.


The third element in creating a powerful question is bringing awareness to the assumptions that are implicit in the question. By creating questions that highlight the assumptions in the questions, we are able to guide our audience to make use of their critical consciousness to examine their values and beliefs.
As stated in the handbook, examining hidden assumptions and beliefs is a key part of critical education and peace education.
As part of our self-reflection, we should try to always try examining implicit assumptions as much as possible, in ourselves:
• The reasons for our beliefs about what we read and learn

• Constantly critically examining the hidden assumptions in the books and literature we read and in regards to our culture.
This is an important way to uncover our own ethnocentricities.

Questions in my Classroom

Questions in my classroom

I can say my class revolves around questions - the ones I use in guiding the class to a clear understanding of the subject matter being learnt, and the ones the students ask to seek clarifications.

It is inconceivable for me to teach without using questions, both as a build up to introducing a topic, or to perceive the meaning/understandings the students attach to what is being learnt.

In order to progress from the known to the unknown when teaching, I ask questions to gauge the general level and perception the students have on a particular subject matter or one that is related to the topic we are to treat.

Teaching courses that have many virtual components, and which may not seem ‘concrete’ to the students, it is very important that I craft questions that will guide me in deciding how best to present my lessons and other learning activities in such a way that the students will really connect with.

For instance, I have a question I like using most when teaching an introductory Word-processing class about selecting/highlighting and formatting text/objects in Ms Word. I usually phrase the question thus: “if, as we are seated in this class right now, someone just bursts into the class and says “STAND UP”, to whom is s/he referring?”. You get lots of different answers, but the idea I intend guiding them to grasp is the fact that an instruction that is passed without anyone being intended as the target of the instruction is most likely to be ignored by everyone. Amazingly, when I ask this question, mostly it is the younger students who give me the best answer which is “NOBODY!”.

Being able to get them to comprehend the need to direct our statements/instructions to a specified target, it is usually now easier for me guide them to understand that we must first select/highlight text/objects before being able to format it.

The above and many other such questions help me in guiding the students to be able to attach clear meanings to what is being learnt. Instead of simply performing a task because they were taught it worked, they are able to attach concise meanings to the actions and thus understand why it is being carried out and also be able to proffer alternative methods of achieving the same objective.

I start my lessons with a request for questions from the students on past lessons, after clearing any question they raise, I then follow up with revision questions myself to ascertain the level of their understanding of previous lessons. It is only after that that I am able to proceed with the activities of the day. It will be useless going ahead to teach new things without clearing the aspects of the previous lessons that aren’t well understood or misunderstood.

Attempting to move ahead without being sure of where we stood with them will lead to bigger problems ahead.
During the course of actual teaching, I speak for at most 15 minutes, then step aside and allow them 5 – 10 minutes to practice and discuss what has being learnt. After that, it is question time, I receive their questions first, then follow with mine

By allowing these discussions and subsequent questions, we are able to move ahead with every step clearly dealt with and comprehended.

On the other hand, when dealing with a large class, the teacher should avoid falling into the very common trap of asking bland general questions like “Do you all understand?”; this is a question that is most likely to be answered with a loudly chorused “YES!” which in most cases is a false positive given just to please the teacher, it is only by following up with open questions relating to the subject matter that we are able to confirm if the students have truly assimilated the lessons and are able to adapt the knowledge to other like situations.

On the whole, i need to state here that a teacher must ensure s/he creates an environment in questions could be freely asked. It should be a class environment in which the students will feel free to give answers to questions exactly as they understand it. Negative criticism, verbal abuse or physical violence must be avoided when reacting to wrong answers from students, otherwise the hostility will make the students afraid to ask questions or simply give “safe” answers which will not provoke a shout down, verbal assault, or abuse from the violent teacher.

A teacher must develop subtle ways of dealing with wrong answers. Instead of flying into a rage and “raising hell”, it would be best to ask another student repeat the question to the answerer and then maybe explain what is expected from the question.

By basing my lessons around questions answers Further Questions, my classes are usually an environment of never ending interactive dialogue and fun filled.

It is not as if we get the “correct” answers to every question all the time, but even the “wrong” answers sometimes lead us to see things from a new perspective, or at least create some laughter in classroom which in itself is a great thing.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Effective Communication in Classroom practice - My Reflections

Every part of this section is directly useful to me personally and as a teacher in the community.

On a personal level, the contents of the section has really made me understand better that listening to the words being spoken alone is not enough, that it is important to pay attention to what is being said, how it being said and ensure I try to get the meaning intended by the speaker. This will enable me be able to understand things better from the viewpoints of others and thus be better equipped to find ways to make a connection.

In my classroom practice, apart from working to improve on my listening and speaking to make me a better communicator, I am planning on preparing a 1 – 2 pages handout for my students on listening/speaking skills for effective communication. After distributing draft copies of the handout to students, I’d facilitate a discussion session to hear their understandings of the topic and their inputs. A final copy will then be prepared and each student given a copy for his/her personal use.

We could have another discussion session to discuss NVC and guide them to understand the various components into their daily lives and how they could use NVC in mediating among their peers.

In my day-to-day classroom practice, I’d be injecting snippets of the various skills/components of peaceful communication to guide the students to imbibe these values into their lives.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) My Reflections

As defined in the handbook, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is a system of communication based on the principles of nonviolence and compassion.

The Nonviolent Communication (NVC) process involves four components (Rosenerg, 2000):

 Observation;
 Feelings;
 Needs;
 Requests

Nonviolent Communication requires both expressing honestly and receiving emphatically through the four outlined components.

 Observations:
Observations on concrete actions that affect our well being should be made without judgment. This requires us to clearly state the concrete actions of the other party which have an effect on us with ascribing any interpretation or motive to it. This means we try getting the other party to understand the specific action we are concerned about.

 Feelings:
In describing our feelings in relation to what we observed, we are able to get the other party to understand the reaction their action provokes in us. Like it is rightly noted in the handbook, we are responsible for how we feel; we have full control over how we allow words of actions of others to affect us.
By clearly expressing the way we feel over an action, the other party will understand the effect his/her/their actions have on us.
In some instances, the action might actually not been intended to annoy or harm us and the expression of the psychological reaction the action has on us could lead a clarification over the intended motive.

 Needs:
By being able to clearly voice out the unmet or injured needs, values or desires that create our feelings, the other party will most probably be able to understand d why we feel his/her/their action affect us.

 Requests:
With non-judgmental observation made, resultant feelings expressed and unmet needs clarified, concrete requests for remedial action is the final component of Nonviolent Communication which will convey in concrete terms what we expect of the other party.

Effective Communication Skills

To achieve mutual understanding in any human relationship, it is absolutely essential that there is effective communication between all the parties involved.
It is only when all the parties are able to freely express their views and are willing to actively listen to other points of views that a mutually beneficial relationship can be achieved.

Effective communication requires good listening/speaking skills. Communication being a two-way process of sending messages and correctly receiving the sent messages, communication can be said to be effective both parties are able to correctly and freely express their viewpoints and also able to listen to the viewpoints of the others with a compassionate ear and sincere willingness to understand what they really mean.

It is only when the message is correctly perceived by the recipient(s) that communication can be regarded as effective. And this is only possible when all the parties involved actively listen and make sincere efforts to understand the other parties’ viewpoints.

Starting from our general interpersonal relationships, we can only become effective communicators when we listen actively with a compassionate ear and open mind to other people. It is only when are able to connect with the message they intend conveying, that we able to identify any misconception on their part (or ours!) and thus take steps to correct them.

Many interpersonal conflicts arise out of our refusal or inability to listen actively to the other party! To understand the other person’s viewpoint, we must be willing to listen emphatically and maintain an open receptive mind to what they are saying, and how they are saying it.

When people perceive us as being genuinely attentive to what they are saying and see us making concrete efforts to understand them, there is a high probability that they will be willing to speak out their minds and even be willing to offer compromises if there was a conflict.

Many conflicts are actually preventable if there is a sincere willingness on the part of all parties to listen to one another with a view to understanding the other party’s viewpoints.

Like it is rightly noted in the handbook, active listening is an art, and to mastering this art requires sincere conscious effort coupled constant practice. Being an effort aimed at effecting behavioral change, it requires conscious willingness to learn and adopt this attitude as part of our lives.

In addition to listening to the actual spoken words being used by a speaker, we also need to learn to understand the silent unspoken messages that are only audible to the sincere active listener! The way the words are spoken, the facial expressions that accompany the words etc are all very essential if we are to connect with the true meaning of spoken words.

To acquire effective listening skills is one side of the communication coin, the other side is to be able to clearly articulate our words when speaking to ensure our words and body language convey the right message to our audience. It is very essential that we craft our words carefully and say them with the right vocal tone and body signs. We could be using the ‘right’ words to express what we mean, but if our facial expression or vocal tone doesn’t match the spoken words, there is always the possibility we might be misunderstood.

Another important skill that is vital for effective communication is the ability to consider the socio-cultural realities of the society in which we are speaking and thus use words, and body language that are accepted as being appropriate in that context. Using words or body language that is considered aggressive, offensive, or improper (socially or religiously) may prevent us from getting across to the other party.

This has a direct implication for the teaching/learning process; we must, as educators, cultivate compassionate listening capabilities in our interactions with our students and the immediate community, and ensure we carefully choose the words we use and how we use them when speaking. This will ensure our audience will receive the message in the words exactly the way we intend it to be received. It is only when we are able to get our messages across and understand the responses from the audience that we can hope to achieve a successful and productive learning experience.

Also, being Guides who the students look up to as role models, we must, as educators, ensure we demonstrate the skills and values associated with peaceful and constructive living in all aspects of our lives. Students tend to mime and copy our words and actions, they gp ahead and adopt them into their lives on the premise that “if the teacher uses it, it must me correct”!
Thus if a teacher portrays violence and aggressive as part of listening and speaking style, s/he is indirectly teaching the students to adopt the violent postures/words as the ‘correct’ way of communication

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Myself as a Peace Educator - My Personal Reflections

Though Computer Application packages is what I teach, I see my job as going beyond teaching youths to use these packages, I see the various courses as vehicles through which I guide learners to imbibe socio-cultural values that will contribute to their future lives and that of the community as a whole. Guiding them to adopt peaceful lifestyles and motivating them to become committed to adopting the values necessary for the establishment and entrenchment of a culture of peace is what I aim at.

With the above in mind, I try my best to ensure I embody what I am guiding them to accept. I try my best to ensure there is no fear or intimidation in my interactions with the students. I believe my mood has a lot to do with the atmosphere in the class and so always ensure I prepare myself mentally and psychologically before any class.

My biggest strengths lie in my ability to motivate and inspire my students; I see teaching as being more than imparting knowledge and skills.
I try my best to ensure I portray myself as a dependable role model who is there to willing guide them along in their preparation for their future life.

Guiding them to adopt nonviolent methods of conflict resolution, respect for diversity, and respect for the environment is more than an academic exercise to me. It is an attempt to guide them to develop a true love for the values that lead to a culture of peace.

In their diverse identities, intelligences, and interests I see limitless opportunities for guiding them to imbibe the values of cooperative peaceful coexistence.

Most of my students are usually teenagers and young adults. At their stages of development, I recognize their need for mature guidance and dependable counsel from a teacher. By maintaining a compassionate listening ear, and open mind, they usually feel free to share their fears and questions about both academic and non-academic issues with me with trust and confidence.

I feel my job gives me a unique opportunity to contribute to the evolvement of these young lives and so, while understanding who they are, I try my best to make see what they can become.

A class without occasional laughter isn’t imaginable to me, we play, we laugh, but best of all, WE LEARN!

In my interactions with my students, I usually find myself in the big brother/Uncle role, always ready to commend a right deed or ask for explanations on a wrong one!

They know they are free to come to me at all times but mostly importantly they know I will always try my best to tell them the TRUTH!

When dealing with their conflicts, I make sure I don’t shy away from saying the truth the way I perceive it and try my best to get them understand my reasons before proceeding to guide them to resolve it. This fairness makes all of them willing to share their thoughts and views which help me guide them along.

In the larger society, my position as a teacher and multicultural background place me in a position in which I am called upon to intervene in many conflicts, and I try my best to ensure conflicts don’t end with a “You are right and the other person is wrong” ending.
I try getting all parties to understand each other and come out from the conflict with a better relationship between them.

Attributes of a Peace Educator - My Reflections

I sincerely don’t see any difference between my perception of what a Peace educator should be, and the attributes outlined in the handbook.

In fact, I would have preferred the list to be universally adopted as the benchmark for certifying teachers in general. Either a teacher is directly engaged in teaching Peace education or any other field of academic study, the outlined attributes are essential for a successful teaching/learning experience!

A good teacher must see himself more as a lead guide who is actively coordinating a process of guiding learners to imbibe the best aspects of their culture, while at the same time empowering them to be able to critically examine the noticeable defects, with the aim of proffering alternative practicable alternatives that can be integrated into the society to improve it.

Whatever the teaching subjects, our main aim should be to guide learners to become the best they possibly can be, and motivate them to become committed to using their innate skills and acquired knowledge towards transforming their societies to become the best it could be!

To effectively achieve the above, a teacher must see himself as a learner, Learning from the students, and the society at large. In fact you teach better when you study your students and use that knowledge to connect with them!
A good teacher is ever on the lookout for ways of improving his skills and practice.

Students will always ask questions (relevant questions and others which we may sometimes perceive as being irrelevant) and signs of being a good teacher is one who his/her students feel free ask questions without fear of negative criticism or violent response.

It is in the questions we sometimes think are irrelevant or stupid that we get to truly know our students, their perception and the understanding they attach to what they are learning.
This works in two ways, firstly it gives us, as teachers, an insight into how our teaching is being received internally processed by the students thereby guiding us to know how to proceed.
On the other hand, if we don’t make ourselves open and accessible to our students, they might end up asking the wrong person who may misdirect them!

Key pedagogical principles of Peace Education - My Reflections

As outlined in the handbook, the four Key pedagogical principles of Peace Education as identified by Virginia Cawagas (2007) are:
1. Holism
2. Values formation
3. Dialogue
4. Critical empowerment

For effective teaching of Peace education, all the four key pedagogical principles should actually be adopted and integrated into the teaching/learning process.

Classroom practice should be tailored to be an ever evolving dialogue based on a holistic approach to issues with the aim of guiding learners to develop critical consciousness and imbibe the values that lead to the entrenchment of a culture of peace.

In my classroom practice presently, I place a very high value on guiding learners to develop a sense of critical consciousness. It is very important to me for my students develop an attitude of asking “why” and be ready to reflect on the realities with a view to proffering alternative options to the reality on the ground.

Guiding them to acquire the capacity and commitment to question their realities, and search for possible alternatives is a task I value greatly.

By guiding students to develop critical consciousness, they will be motivated to critically scrutinize issues in their immediate society and thus be able arrive at clearer understanding of the realities. Upon reflection on the understanding gained they will be able to see if there are opportunities for positively transforming the realities and then be better empowered to solve identified problems.

In my view, every educator should acquire skills and knowledge that will make him/her able to awaken the students’ sense of critical consciousness and guide them further to utilize their powers of creative imagination to envision alternative futures to unacceptable current reality.

Peace Education Pedagogy in the Classroom - My Reflections

I am able integrate Peace Education themes into my classes without much problem because our learning activities take the thematic approach combined with a cooperative learning style.

Various Peace Education themes can be used to create learning activities for Word-processing, Data Processing Multimedia Presentation, Graphics Design, or Internet Appreciation classes.

I am presently using “Respect for diversity” as a theme for my Multimedia Presentations class. Each group has already submitted handwritten submissions on what they think of 3 tribes in the country other than theirs. The next stage will be a discussion forum to discuss some of the perceptions that have been submitted.

I intend the discussion forums to serve as “clarification sessions” where any misrepresentation found in the various submissions will be discussed and if there is any student from the tribe that is misrepresented, s/he would try offering clarifications. And I am also going through the submissions myself to obtain more information especially bon the tribes that are not represented in the class.

At the end of the discussions, I am hoping we will be able to reach better understanding about the different tribes we have in the country and clarify some false myths and misconceptions held about different tribes by others.

I intend to give the groups a second assignment to list the positive aspects of the cultures of the tribes they discussed in their earlier submissions.

I am hoping that, working form a clarified point of view, the students will be able to see other cultures in a better light.

I intend to then guide the students to create presentations using Ms PowerPoint outlining the positive values the groups submit in the 2nd assignment.

To date, the students are all very excited about the activity and they are discussing the tasks both in, and out of class. What impresses me most is the that the activity is really the students talking and asking questions both among themselves and within the community from people whose tribes they are working on.

Peace Education Pedagogy in a Non- Peace Education subject - My Reflections

Even when teaching subjects that don’t have explicit Peace Education topics, I have found that using Peace Education pedagogy is very beneficial.

Whatever the content to be taught, guiding learners to critically examine the subject matter allows them to throw up hitherto unconsidered angles to an issue/subject.

One of the questions I like most when teaching, is “WHY?”. When student asks “why?”, I have a feeling s/he has opened up a deeper level of his/her consciousness and trough the question, wishes to actually comprehend the “meaning” of what is being learnt.

Learning using a cooperative approach in groups, and ensuring students are part of the design of the learning activities, really makes a big difference in teaching/learning process. The lessons are truly “theirs”, and it thus goes beyond learning ICT skills, they feel a connection what the lessons.

Content, Form and Structure of my teaching

Form and content in my context are dialectically related, and one determines the other. The social realities of our society and the students’ diverse interests/abilities are blended when deciding on the contents of our learning materials.

The teaching/learning process is based the cooperative learning style and so we maintain a very flexible system in which, though the ICT topics are clearly defined, the sample learning materials used in classes are always designed with students and our current social realities in mind.

Computer Application packages are the core subjects taught in my school. The curriculum is based on the ECDL/ICDL ( curriculum, but the learning activities and materials are designed with our local realities in mind so as to enable the students make a personal connection with what is being learnt.

In designing the contents of the various sample practice materials, my main considerations are: the abilities/interests of the students, the ICT skills to be learnt and our local realities.

It is the perceived interests/abilities of the students and the local realities that provide the message that is embedded in the learning materials that are used to learn the ICT skills.

For example, when teaching students how to prepare a formal letter during Word-processing classes, our sample learning material could be a letter addressed to a government official appealing for more government funding for health in our local community. The students will be able to relate to the issue and contribute to what the letter should contain. The structural format of the letter is provided, but it is the students who brainstorm and provide the contents of the letter. With this information, we can now go ahead and start learning how to format the letter using Word-processing techniques.

Futures Education Pedagogy - My Reflections

I feel more favourably disposed towards Jungk’s workshops which have the following phases:

1. Critique – complaints and criticism about the immediate problem are collected;

2. Fantasy – various processes, such as brainstorming, are used to generate “Utopian schemes” that might resolve the problem;

3. Implementation – the most popular suggestions for action are identified and checked for practicality;

4. Follow-up – detailed action plans are reviewed and finalized (Hicks, 2004).
I see in this pedagogy, strong elements of Freire’s ideas. It will help the learner to:
• develop critical examination skills to question the reality;
• allow for student participation through brainstorming sessions (though at this stage, there should be no criticism or condemnation of any student’s submission however grandiose or Utopian they may seem to us);
• develop and improve the students’ decision making skills by allowing them to sift through various submissions and decide on which ones are found to be most practicable;
• And by leaving the option of a review before final decision is taken, the learners are free to experiment, always knowing any error will still be corrected.
This idea of “Reflection – Action – Reflection” really excites me because it will truly make learners learn to make decisions and freely accept responsibilities for misjudgments. The fact that the method leaves room for review will encourage student participation. They’d feel free to air their views since they are sure it is not yet final, and that they themselves or their peers could, during review, help make it better.
This method blends in perfectly with my classroom practice. It certainly gives enough room for student participation which is very important to me as a teacher. It is from the contributions of students that we learn if the lesson is being understood, and how the message is being interpreted.

Incorporating this pedagogy into my curriculum and classroom practice will pose no problem because it will work well with the cooperative learning style which I use. Using the group method, any topic can be addressed, and students guided to analyze the present reality of the topic, envision an alternative future, make projections for the future and outline practicable plans for making the envisioned future a reality.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Futures Education in the Classroom - My Reflections

Whatever the teaching subject I find myself dealing with, I always aim to get the students in my class to “use their brains”! By guiding them to awaken their sense of critical thinking on present realities and working amongst themselves to proffer alternative solutions to perceived negative realities, they are usually able to put to use, and improve their creative imagination skills.

Considering the local socio-cultural backgrounds the students come from, my first task is usually to guide the students away from the passive “rote” learning style they are mostly accustomed to, and introduce them to a new style of cooperative learning for comprehension.

Using cooperative learning methods, students are guided to work through tasks through group brainstorming discussions and projections.

With an awakening of their senses of critical thinking, it is then possible to design, and implement learning activities based on clearly predefined outcomes which the students are given the opportunity to contribute.

An example of subjects in which the students are guided to use their creative imagination is our Graphics design classes. The course allows for total flexibility in the methods of solving a task and also on the final product.

In integrating futures education as a component of peace education into a graphics design class (using CorelDraw), a learning activity can be designed in which every group is asked to envision a future state on a given local reality (e.g. Street hawking, Begging in the society, or Interfaith relations in the society), then they would insert shapes or pictures to represent the various elements they hope to see present in the envisioned future.

While it will be a very good learning activity for the students to learn about importing pictures and shapes into CorelDraw graphics, it will also allow the students to brainstorm on the selected reality and envision a transformed reality for the future.

After each group has completed it’s drawing, the learning activity could be further extended to ask each group to think of possible suggestions on how the future they envisioned could be transformed into reality.

With proper guidance, they will be able to think of various steps that could be taken to ensure the envisioned future comes to be.

It is expected that the students will, trough these activities, use their senses of creative imaginations and critical thinking skills to evaluate the present reality, envision an alternative future, and brainstorm on possible practicable alternative ways of ensuring the envisioned future becomes a reality.

My perception here is that by teaching the students to envision futures and then guiding them through the process of identifying possible steps that can be taken towards its actualization, we are guiding them to develop a spirit of “If you can dream it, you can, with proper planning, make the dream come true”!

Imbibing this spirit of positive optimism will make them always hold on to the possibility of making their visions come true no matter how difficult the present may be!

This “never say die” spirit is very critical when we consider the length of time it sometimes takes for some of our visions to be realized!

Stereotype of the Future in My Society - My Reflections

It might seem too generalized, but the truth is that my immediate society sees little to plan for in the future, living basically for today!

Many factors are jointly responsible for this unwillingness of the people in my community to see the future as something that they can envision, plan and work towards.

Starting from the personal level, many people in my immediate society live their lives upon the erroneous fatalist concept of accepting everything as being destined, and not believing that they could envision a different future for their unfavorable realities and work towards its actualization.

Wrong interpretations of religious teachings play a big role in this commonplace resignation to fate. On a personal note, I’d prefer a theological approach that preaches envisioning a future, planning and praying towards its actualization, and WORKING HARD towards to ensure it comes to be!

Institutionally, the long years of military misrule deeply affected the way in which the governments function. The military rulers, having come into power through coups, were never sure someone else won’t overthrow them tomorrow, and thus were not certain of a fixed term in office. They therefore made plans only with projections for the short-term, with little or no consideration for the long-term future!

In the early days of nationhood after independence, governments designed 3-5 years development plans upon which they tailored their policies, but these days, it is very rare to hear of a government policy being planned with projections made for 2 years!

Another contributing factor to this malaise of disregard for creating visions of the future, then planning and working towards its actualization is the erratic changes in government policies every few years. There is no clearly defined national vision based on the needs and aspirations of the Nigerian people; every elected public office holder comes into office with his/her set of plans which are designed with only his 4-year tenure in mind. If at the end of his/her tenure, he is not reelected, the next elected official simply jettisons all the policies and projects started by his predecessors and embark on charting a new 4-year course.

On the whole, the stereotype view of the future held y many people in my immediate community, is of something over which they have no control, and therefore don’t feel any inclination to create visions about it, or take effective steps to shape how it evolves.


 I envision a future in which all my learning activities will be based on Peace education themes.

 I hold a vision of my students not being passive recipients of instruction, but actually proactively using the acquired skills and knowledge to effect transformation in their local communities.

 I envision a future in which all young pupils of our local public schools will be given quality education that will guide them to become functional members of the society.

 I envision a future in which conflicts between our diverse ethnic groups will be resolved through dialogue; each party will be willing to make compromises; and there will be mutual respect for diversities.

 I envision a future in which all girls in my community will have access to post secondary education.

 I envision a world in which race, gender, or faith will not be the determinant of the height of achievement available for all human beings.

 I envision a future in which all firearms and bomb factories will be converted into schools and children playgrounds.

 I envision a future in which there will be no dictatorial government in power anywhere in the world.

 I envision a world in which environmental sustainability will be a major consideration when decisions are made on issues of growth and development.

 I envision myself as a Peace educator working both locally within my immediate community, and contributing to global efforts at making sure we leave this world better than we met it.

Key Pedagogical Principles of Peace Education

Virginia Cawagas (2007) has identified four key pedagogical principles in peace education:
1. Holism: Demonstrating that all issues are interrelated, multidimensional, and dynamic. Holism stands in sharp contrast to the fragmented way in which school subjects are often taught. A holistic vision allows us to see the complex relationships of different issues. A holistic vision involves looking at the temporal (past, present, future, and how they interrelate) and spatial dimensions (from micro to macro, and across sectors of society) of an issue.

2. Values formation: Cawagas writes, “Realizing that all knowledge is never free of values, educating for a culture of peace needs to be explicit about its preferred values such as compassion, justice, equity, gender-­- fairness, caring for life, sharing, reconciliation, integrity, hope and non-­-violence” (p. 302). Peace education involves teaching for these values in all educational interventions.

3. Dialogue: According to Cawagas, “a dialogical approach cultivates a more horizontal teacher-­-learner relationship in which both dialogically educate and learn from each other” Dialogue is a key component of peace education pedagogy. In addition to class discussion, Cawagas suggests the following tools for dialogic pedagogy:
 Guest speakers: For example, invite street children to a class to talk about their lives;
 Web charting: Make a web chart using a theme (in a circle in the center), and sub-­- themes connected to the center, and draw connections;
 Role-­-play: Have students act out a cross-­-cultural conflict;
 Simulation: Simulate a small-­-arms convention for a lesson on disarmament; have students play different roles, such as that of an arms dealer, arms buyer, protester, etc.;
 Singing;
 Painting;
 Poetry;
 Small group discussion.

4. Critical empowerment: Cawagas writes that “in critical empowerment, learners engage in a personal struggle to develop a critical consciousness that actively seeks to transform the realities of a culture of war and violence into a culture of peace and non-­- violence” (p. 304). Thus, through critical empowerment, learners develop a deeper understanding of problems, and are also empowered to take action to solve these problems. Critical empowerment also requires an understanding of power; in a system of inequitable power relations, empowerment involves reconstructing this system to one of more equitable, horizontal relations.

Cawagas, V. (2007). Pedagogical principles in educating for a culture of peace. In S. H. Toh & V. Cawagas (Eds.)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Integrating Core Competencies for Conflict Resolution Education into my school - My Reflections

The core competencies for Conflict Resolution Education as outlined in the handbook thus:
 Emotional awareness;
 Empathy and perspective taking;
 Emotional management;
 Problem solving;
 Communication (listening, mediation, negotiation);
 Effective decision making
(CRETE, 2010)

I’d prefer creating a standalone set of learning activities to guide students to acquire the above outlined core competencies.

In designing this stand alone course, I’d schedule it to run as a weekend programme (two hours each on Saturdays and Sundays) every week for a period of 12 weeks. Each core competency will be studied and discussed over a period of two weekends.

Thus, by the end of the 12th week, all the outlined competencies will have been learnt and hopefully imbibed into the students’ daily lives.

In implementing this programme, I’d divide the students into group. Though the sessions will be for whole class, but each small group will be assigned different research and practical assignments in the course of the programme.

The learning materials will be designed to study “sample scenarios” using sample stories directly from the students or others which they can directly relate to.

In discussing these stories, they’ll be guided to analyze the conflicts involved, and proffer possible means of resolving them using the core competencies being studied.

By using their stories or stories they can relate, the students will be able derive useful and expectedly long-lasting meanings from the training sessions and thus be well receptive to imbibing these skills in their personal lives.

Futures education as a key component of Peace Education - My Reflections

Peace education aims at transforming the current global reality of a culture of war/violence to a future reality which will exist with the culture of peace being the normal state of affairs.

Having a clearly defined vision of the world we aspire towards, will serve as a goalpost towards which we can actively direct our efforts. Instead of simply holding on to some vague theories propounded by a long dead sage, If we can imagine what we want based on our local realities and guided by our personal experiences, we’d be more motivated to make plans and work towards its realization.

A clearly defined vision of a world modeled on the culture of peace we are aspiring towards, is certainly essential to ensuring we understand where we currently are today, and thus see the distance that separates us from the realization of these dreams. This will in turn enable us to effectively chart feasible the course/s towards the realization of the visions/goals of establishing a just and sustainable violence-free world.

All human achievements are first conceived as ideas in the imaginations of people. It is when vision has been clearly defined that it is now possible to start looking appropriate steps to be taken towards its realization. Eradicating all vestiges of the culture of war/violence requires educators and learners to possess the capacity to identify and envision the alternative culture of peace we want for our world.

By being able to clearly see, in our minds, the future we desire, we are able to critically examine our present reality and thus compare it with our vision of the future using critical thinking skills.

With benefit of knowledge of where we currently are in the present, and a clearly defined idea of where we are aiming for, it is then possible employ our creative imagination to exploring possible ways of ensuring the envisioned future becomes a reality.

Futures education therefore aims to guide educators and learners to use their imaginations creatively to envision alternative futures and then explore possible ways of turning these visions into reality. Guiding learners to acquire these skills is very critical to transforming the culture war to one of peace.

Conflicts in Nigeria - My Reflections

The three major causes of conflicts in my immediate society are: ethnicity, religion, and politics.

On the whole, Nigerians have long lived in relative peace with mutual understanding among the various ethnic and religious groups all over the country. Interethnic and interfaith marriages and other socioeconomic relations were commonplace.

Long years of military misrule had left the country in a socioeconomically bankrupt situation. The return to civil in 1999 brought into power, a crop of civilian leaders who had no political ideologies or economic plans for the country. They therefore resorted to appealing to ethnic and religious sentiments in their campaigns to win votes in the elections.

This seemingly innocent ploy to get votes filtered through to the consciousness of many gullible Nigerians who from then on, saw themselves as owing allegiance first to their tribes or religious faiths before the country!

These group of inept political leaders on the other hand, have used the acquired political power to loot the national and state treasuries while heavily funding their propaganda machine to spread hate messages about groups other than theirs, they spread misinformation to depict the “other sides” as being the cause of the masses’ socioeconomic woes.

This has led to a situation whereby many ignorant citizens look at people of other faiths/tribes as enemies whose activities are the cause of the problems the country is facing.

While the leaders, irrespective of their ethnic origin and religious faiths collaborate to misappropriate public funds, the masses are fed religious/ethnic propaganda.
This dangerous trend has now affected every aspect of national life. It is virtually impossible for citizens to get jobs in states other than their states of origin or places where members of their religious faith hold sway. Public institutions (and in some cases, private organizations) will prefer to employ unqualified indigenes even if there are better qualified non-indigenes.

At the slightest provocation (sometimes even without no just cause), physical violence breaks out between various tribes/faiths, all fueled by the propaganda that had been fed into their consciousness by political and religious leaders.

Thousands of lives and properties worth billions of naira have been lost to such violence in different parts of the country in the last few years where people are unable to live peacefully simply because of ethnic/religious differences.

My immediate community here in Kano is not immune to outbreaks of such wanton destruction of lives and properties. Simple disputes between people of different religious faiths could within hours escalate into an all out statewide or nationwide orgy of killings and destruction of properties by extremists from the two sides.

Most unfortunately, instead of attempting to tackle the real causes of this unending cycle of recurring violence, subsequent governments have only used a fire brigade approach by sending in troops to quell the fights when they break out.

The troops are stationed in the towns for some months and then withdrawn when a forced quiet returns. It should be noted that it is commonplace for the troops to perpetrate their own kind of brutality on the inhabitants during their stay.

The deep-rooted animosity between the tribes/religious faiths is left without being looked into, and so, after some period of relative quiet, another trivial dispute destroys the fragile “peace” and hell is let loose again!

After violent clashes between the tribes/faiths, governments sometimes set up panels of enquiry to find out the causes of the disturbances and proffer suggestions on how to prevent future occurrences. Various individuals and interest groups usually appear before these panels to make submissions. But at the end of it all, the reports of the various panels never the light of the day, none of the recommendations is ever implemented. Next time there is another outbreak of violence, the same old process is repeated - Send in troops, set up a panel of enquiry whose recommendations are never used! On and on goes the naked dance of madness!

Though the situation is indeed dire, a sincere and determined effort by the various political and religious leaders to tackle this problem can succeed. A starting point is the almost unanimous agreement by all Nigerian tribes/faiths of the necessity of keeping the country as one undivided entity.

This acceptance of the need to keep Nigeria one, is backed up with sincere willingness to respect the diverse nature of the country’s composition, will certainly place the country on the road to peace.

More transparency and accountability is also required in governance to eliminate bribery and corruption from the public sector. Appointments should also be made on merit and competence, without any ethnic/religious bias.

Political and religious leaders on their part, have to refrain from making inflammatory statement that could ignite tensions in the polity.

Peace education programmes targeting youths should also be integrated into the national academic curriculum at all levels. This will guide the youths to grow up with skills, knowledge and passion for entrenching peace in the society.
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