Monday, June 6, 2011

Teaching Nonviolence in the school

Either as a standalone project or integrated process, educating students about nonviolent resistance requires a lot consideration to ensure it achieves the required aims.
As a standalone project, a set of learning activities could be created which will be implemented apart from the core academic activities of the school.
On the other hand, I favour the integrated approach, the whole school adopts nonviolent resistance as a theme for the term or session and every teacher builds his/her learning activities around this theme. This approach will allow for the theme to be studied from different angles through the various subjects.
In promoting nonviolent resistance as an alternative means of effecting transformation to students, I’d endeavour integrating the Principles of Gandhi’s Satyagraha into my lessons.
If it is going to be a school wide initiative, I’d suggest using Nonviolence as a theme; for a session or term. During the period, various aspects of nonviolence will be integrated into normal everyday academic subjects.
But if I am only able to use it my classroom as a class teacher, I’d first solicit for the support of other teachers who teach the class other subjects. The Geography teacher could integrate lessons on important places where nonviolence has been used to effect positive transformation. The History tutor could design lessons that will illustrate various important personalities in nonviolent resistance. The English Teacher could also look for or create comprehension passages that will teach the students about key words in nonviolent resistance.
It is very important to note however that nonviolence could best be taught by a teacher who is personally involved in nonviolent efforts even if it is only at the local workers union level. A teacher who personifies the ideals of nonviolence as a means of effecting transformation will certainly make a better guide in guiding the students to understand in believe in the principles of nonviolent resistance. It is also important to note that teaching nonviolence to students has to be carefully planned to ensure the authorities and school administrators don’t misconstrue the aims of the project.
It is very important to firstly teach the students about the absolute necessity of obeying the rules of the society in as much as they don’t contain inhuman tendencies. They must be made aware that even when using nonviolent means to exert pressure on an oppressive regime, the protesters must obey basic rules of the society that are not in themselves oppressive. Justice cannot be obtained through unjust means.
The teacher has to make the students aware that when protesting against oppressive regimes, the oppressed must never conduct themselves in a lawless manner. They must uphold the key principle of using truthful means to achieve their aims.
A teacher could start introducing the principles nonviolent resistance by teaching students about the power of the ballot box in a democratic system. This will make them understand that just as governments could be installed through the collection of individual votes, the masses could also effect political transformation through nonviolent acts of Omission and Commission.
Importance of networking must also be highlighted to the students to enable them appreciate the benefits of working together with others both locally and globally to effect political transformation.
As being witnessed in the Arab world, ICT tools are also a very powerful means of supporting nonviolent resistance. This offers an opportunity to teach the students about the use of and powers of social media in a nonviolent effort.
Another useful method will be the use of a voting system to arrive at decisions on some issues in the class/school; students should be allowed to put forward their submissions then the matter is put to vote and the option that is scores the highest vote implemented. This is a good way of teaching the students to understand the power of using majority support to ensure action is taken or changed effected.
The teacher/school should also create avenues through which students can express their opinions on issues they feels requires change (A Student parliament with representatives from across all classes will be a good idea). It is absolutely important for the teacher or school administration to be willing to consider the students’ opinions; if their call for a change is found to be valid and feasible, the teacher/administration must be willing to effect the transformation; and if it is not feasible, detailed and reasonable explanation should be offered to let the students understand why their complaints or suggestions cannot be acted upon.
Running the school/class on a system that encourages the students to be active participants in decision-making will make them see that they can make their voice heard wherever they find themselves and that by speaking out and acting nonviolently; they can effect transformation of their realities.
The role of the school as an agent of socialization cannot be separated from that of the other socialization agents like the family, religious centres, the mass media, and the larger community. This implies that if the school decides to integrate nonviolence education into its curriculum, it must be designed based on the local reality and efforts made to integrate the other agents of socialization into the efforts; an intensive collaborative effort should be initiated to involve the wider community. Selected public officials and political activists could be invited to deliver related speeches. Care must however be taken to ensure the invited speaker tailor their speeches to the sensibilities and mental capabilities of the students to avoid misconceptions and misrepresentations.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Ibrahim,

    In my opinion, sometimes we have to start small (one classroom) and move to something big (local community). So I would start with your classroom and hopefully other teachers will see what you are doing and want to be involved as well. Maybe try to get one other teacher to join you so that you will have some support?

    I'm concerned that if we wait for everyone to adapt an idea or get on board, we risk that nothing will happen. On the other hand there is power is numbers so maybe it's better to garner support before launching into an initiative. I may not know enough about your situation to really make a good judgment. You will have to decide what is the best way to proceed.

    As far as social media is concerned, it is becoming a powerful tool for change. I think that it can bring about democracy much more quickly than some of the older methods.

  3. I quite agree, being able to guide my immediate constituency – MY CLASS to imbibe the basic concepts of Non-violent conflict resolution can certainly have a ripple effect on the school as a whole and the wider community as it spreads.
    Though I currently work outside the mainstream public educational system (Our curriculum is designed as a vocational skill acquisition programme based on the ICDL/EDL model); my previous experience in the wider school system feeds my belief that it’d work best in bigger schools if it is promoted as a school wide concept.
    The intertwined relationship between what happens in schools and the realities of the society makes the involvement of the wider community useful in making the objectives attainable.
    In a multi-cultural environment like mine here in Kano, you have various extreme perceptions struggling to make an impression on young minds, and if the kids can see their elders participating in an effort like this, they’d feel more inclined to inculcate it into their lives.
    On the whole, either as standalone effort in a single class or a wider effort, I agree we simply have to start somewhere.


Creative Commons License
This work by Ibrahim K. Oyekanmi ( is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.