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.

Conflict Resolution in the School - My Reflections

In our little way in the school, we have our ways of resolving conflicts though no formal instruction is designed for conflict resolution strategies.

In the classroom, we an understanding that if a misunderstanding occurs between two students and they are unable to mutually agree on a settlement amongst themselves, they should agree on a arbiter from among the other students to mediate between them.

This method has been very successful in resolving conflicts among students and it is only in cases where the arbiter is unable to effect a settlement that I come in and try guiding the parties to the conflict to a settlement.

It is a standing rule that no student must fight another student, and fortunately, no misunderstanding has ever degenerated into physical combat.

With the knowledge I have thus acquired from this programme, I intend however, to create a learning activity for the school which will be based on the process curriculum approach. The learning activities will be designed to teach students the various key skills and competencies needed for effective conflict resolution.

When mediating in a conflict between students, I usually first appeal to their shared interests and the benefits they stand to derive from maintaining friendly relations. After listeniung to both parties, I then go on to highlight the points of agreement I could see from their statements before now moving on to find ways of guiding them to navigate through their conflict through asking them to make compromises.

It works well because after each person has stated the compromises he/she is willing to make, we have some strong foundation to use to end whatever stalemate they had.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Conflict, Positive OR Negative? - My Reflections

From my point of view, conflict in itself is neither good nor bad. It is simply a normal occurrence in our various relations starting from the interpersonal level, all through to the global. It is the response to the occurrence of conflict that determines whether the outcome is positive is negative.

Considering the diverse sociopolitical composition of our societies, it is to be expected that different perspectives will be held by different people for virtually every subject under the sun. The various responses to these differences of perception or opinions will determine if the differences are resolved peacefully or allowed to degenerate into deeper animosity or sometimes outright violence.

Conflicts can have a positive side; some conflicts may be the result of misinformation, misconceptions or poor channels of communication between the parties to the conflict. But when each party takes a stand on the issue and there is a conflict, a well intended and sincere resolution process will lead all parties to see things from the point of view of the other sides. This could lead to better understandings among peoples in the society.
And best of all, if such a process is successful, it will motivate all the parties to be willing in the future to open lines of dialogue between one another when other issues come up in future.

Conflict in my immediate environment - My Reflections

A conflict in my immediate environment that readily comes to mind is that which is caused by differences of political opinion. Political affiliation in our society is largely influenced by ethnic/religious relations with the politicians themselves and has less to do with political ideologies, credibility, or trustworthiness of the politicians.

During discussions o issues, I sometimes find myself at opposing sides with people whose outlook to politics is influenced by the ethnic or religious beliefs of a particular politician. Once they share a common religious faith or ethnic origin with a politician, they are never willing to question his actions and policies and wouldn’t listen to anyone questioning his actions or policies, even if it is apparent that the actions or policies are detrimental to public good.

Though none of my personal encounters has ever degenerated into open fights, but I have seen many people start bloody fights over such political discussions which are caused by myopic leanings. When I find myself in a discussion with someone whose political beliefs are based on ethnicity of religious beliefs, my most common method of diffusing tension is allowing the other party enough time to air their views while I attentively listen. This listening technique often allows me to hear them through and understand them even if I feel their view is wrong!

When they seem to have finished, I usually come in by first highlighting the points on which we mutually agree (e.g. “I can see that you agree that Nigeria belongs to all of us”, “I agree with you when you say corruption is the main problem of our country, but do you think anyone should be immune from anti corruption laws simply because of his ethnic origin or religion?” etc)
Such questions usually enable us to start from points we mutually agree on and then slowly go on to those upon which we disagree. By guiding our conversation to become a form of exploration through issues that affect us both, I am mostly able to change a potential fight to a discussion which even if we don’t agree on all issues, we understand one another.


Activities of Oil companies, and Environmental degradation in the Niger Delta.

The widespread damage to the ecosystem in the Niger Delta caused by oil spills, and other uncontrolled exploration related activities, led to a campaign by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni Peoples (MOSOP) in the 1990s to raise awareness about the problems faced by inhabitants of the region. The campaigned was aimed at getting local authorities, multinational oil companies and global organizations to intervene and ensure effective steps are taken towards compensation, repairs to the damaged environment and a change in the mode of operations of the oil companies.

AUTHOR: Ibrahim Oyekanmi

TIME: 3 Lesson periods (2 hours X 3)

GRADE LEVEL AND SUBJECT: Advanced Computer application packages classes, Basic Multimedia Presentations using Ms PowerPoint.

MATERIALS: - Wikipedia pages on Ogoniland
- United Nations Report on the environmental degradation in Ogoniland caused by SHEL Plc’s activities in the region.

METHODS: Readings, Reflections and discussion sessions within groups and the whole class; using Google News to search for information, and using Ms PowerPoint to create a Presentation to highlight the damage to the environment caused by activities of SHELL Plc and the efforts of the social justice movement that struggled to get SHELL to accept responsibility.

CONCEPTS: Effects of exploration and extractive activities on the environment; taking action; existing international mechanisms for pursuing environmental causes; possible success of nonviolent protest if kept up; environmental degradation and the attendant structural and physical violence.

OBJECTIVES: Learners will:
 Learn to use Ms Powerpoint to create a presentation detailing the timeline of the environmental issues of Ogoniland.

 Understand the link between the activities of oil companies and environmental degradation.

 Understand the ways in which environmental degradation leads to violence.

 Learn that effective mechanisms exist for pursuing environmental claims.

 Understand that, even if it takes long time, unflinching persistence and determined commitment to cause will certainly bring victory at the end.

0. General background lecture on Ogoniland and its environmental problems.

Learners will be guided to:

1. Get Wikipedia articles on Ogoniland.

2. Search for the news itemS on the UN report using Google News.

3. Sift through the search results to get the appropriate pages with useful details of the contents of the report.

4. Print relevant pages of the report that contain the main highlights.

The class will be divided into small groups and each group given a copy of the printouts from the report to study for a week before the next class with emphasis on the following themes:

 The people of Ogoniland before oil was discovered.
 Environmental degradation from activities if Oil companies,
 Efforts of social groups at getting the problems addressed.
 The responses of the government and the Oil companies to the efforts of activists.
 International organizations involved in investigating environmental issues.
 Achievements of the campaigns;
 Expectations for the future.

In the next lesson period, the reports will be discussed in a session to be facilitated by the teacher.

Students will be asked to raise their questions and comments on their understanding of the documents. These questions and comments should be thrown open to the whole class. From the various the submissions that come out of the discussions, 3 – 4 paragraphs-long submissions should be written out for each theme.

The written submissions for each theme should form the content of a slide in the presentation to be creates using Ms PowerPoint in the final lesson period.


Social Justice Issues and Environmental Degradation in the Nigerian Niger Delta - My Reflections

The Nigerian Niger Delta is rich in Petroleum and its allied resources. The uncontrolled extractive activities of the oil companies working in the region has resulted in widespread environmental pollution.

This contamination has had a negative effect on farming and fishing, which are the main traditional occupations of the inhabitants of the region. Farmland and rivers have been rendered waste as a result of contamination from oil spills from the pipelines which crisscross the whole area.

Wells and local streams which serve as sources of fresh water for the people of these areas have also become contaminated.
Reports also suggest that in some areas in the Niger Delta, the air itself is contaminated and inhaling this contaminated air is believed to be the source of many diseases experienced by locals.

A recent United Nations reported indicted a multinational oil company that is active in the Niger Delta of intentional negligence in the case of the oil spills in the area. The report further stated that it will take up to 25 years to clean up the area and revive the ecosystem that is dead!

Consequently, most of the residents of this area live in abject poverty despite the colossal income generated by the government from the petroleum resources extracted from the area.
They lack basic social infrastructure like good schools, hospitals, access roads, etc.

Apart from being deprived of their basic rights to a healthy environment, residents of this region are thus also deprived of their sources of livelihood and suffer a painful form of structural violence by being denied their basic rights to good education, health etc.

Over the years, some individuals of the region and local groups have started campaigns to protest these injustices, but instead of the authorities looking into their claims, they have been subject to direct physical violence in the form of arrests, executions and massive brutality in the hands of the military joint task force which is in charge of security in the region.

This oppression and the attendant injustices should be discussed in classrooms and students given an opportunity to understand that, while oil could be a major source of income to a country, the way and manner in which it is extracted, refined, and transported could have negative effects on the lives of local communities.

Among the issues that learners could be introduced to, are:
 Relationship between oil extraction activities and environmental pollution;

 Effects of environmental pollution on the economic lives of local communities;

 Relationship between oil exploration and violence;
 Relationship between oil exploration and illiteracy;
 Relationship between oil exploration and personal health.

Guiding learners to become aware of the various environmental issues outlined above, will:
 Make them aware of the need to strike a balance between economic prosperity and environmental sustainability in public policies.

 Guide them to cultivate a motivation to take action to ensure the environment is protected.

 Make them aware of the relationship between the activities of oil companies and social justice issues.

So, while the largest proportion the government’s income from export comes from this region, the inhabitants of this area face a disproportionate amount of discrimination and oppression.

By denying them good schools, the children from this region largely grow up uneducated and thus denied deprived the opportunity of acquiring quality education that could possibly have placed them in good stead to rise to positions from which they might possibly have been able to effect changes in the plight of their people.
They are thus condemned to lives as searching for nonexistent jobs as unskilled labour!


Relationship between Environmental Education and Social Justice - My Reflections

Upon reflection on the relationship between Environmental education and social justice, we’d see that the aim of Environmental education is to equip learners with knowledge and skills that will make them aware of their environment and its allied problems. Environmental problems have direct and sometimes indirect effects (positive or negative) on our daily lives, and in many cases, linked to derivations, discriminations and outright occurrences of violent conflicts!

In aiming to create a world population that is consciously aware of environmental issues, Environmental education strives to prevent, reduce, or where possible eliminate possible causes of social injustice in the society.

A society that is aware of the environmental consequences of industrialization on their lives for instance, will certainly make proactive efforts to ensure industrial growth and development plans are made with due consideration for possible environmental effects.

Apart from guiding people to be committed to taking proactive stances on issues, Environmental education, if properly implemented, will guide people to adopt Environmentally-friendly attitudes and values. By adopting a lifestyle that seeks to protect the environment, people will be indirectly protecting and promoting the rights of others to good environment.

Many conflicts across the globe are caused by environmental issues like resource control, environmental degradation and direct marginalization of indigenous people. Many forms of structural and direct physical violence are perpetuated as a result of these conflicts. With Environmental education, people will acquire the capacity to critically examine environmental issues and upon due reflection, seek for civil nonviolent methods of effecting transformation.

With a society that is consciously aware of their rights and responsibilities towards the environment, governments will also have to place top priority on environmental considerations when initiating and implementing various policies.

Environmental education strives at the equitable and sustainable usage of environmental resources the earth. Its efforts really help in ensuring social justice finds a place in the dictionary of world leaders.


Like all of Peace education, Environmental education is education for, or/and about peace. On one hand, Environmental education aims at equipping with knowledge and skills that will lead to awareness and concern about the total environment and its associated problems. On the other hand, it also aims to guide learners, by virtue of the acquire skills and knowledge, to imbibe attitudes and values that will motivate them to become committed to work individually and collectively towards solution of identified current problems, and the prevention of the occurrence of new ones.

The first UN conference on environmental education in Tbilisi (1977) endorses some guiding principles for environmental education.

According to the Tbilisi Declaration, environmental education should:

 Consider the environment in its totality—natural and built, technological and social (economic, political, cultural-historical, ethical, esthetic);

 Be a continuous lifelong process, beginning at the preschool level and continuing through all formal and non-formal stages;

 Be interdisciplinary in its approach, drawing on the specific content of each discipline in making possible a holistic and balanced perspective;

 Examine major environmental issues from local, national, regional, and international points of view so that students receive insights into environmental conditions in other geographical areas;

 Focus on current and potential environmental situations while taking into account the historical perspective;

 Promote the value and necessity of local, national, and international cooperation in the prevention and solution of environmental problems;

 Explicitly consider environmental aspects in plans for development and growth;

 Enable learners to have a role in planning their learning experiences and provide an opportunity for making decisions and accepting their consequences;

 Relate environmental sensitivity, knowledge, problem-solving skills, and values clarification to every age, but with special emphasis on environmental sensitivity to the learner's own community in early years;

 Help learners discover the symptoms and real causes of environmental problems;

 Emphasize the complexity of environmental problems and thus the need to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills;

Utilize diverse learning environments and a broad array of educational approaches to teaching, learning about and from the environment with due stress on practical activities and first-hand experience.

The Classroom as a Gender inclusive environment - My Reflections

I feel my perception of women, at both the personal and professional relationship levels, is that of equal partners who are as capable as I am. I know that just like I have my strengths and weaknesses, they also have theirs!

Upon deep reflection, I have arrived at the understanding that we are created complementary by nature. In any field of human endeavor, it is the combination of the unique strengths and outlooks of both sexes that could lead to the emergence of a successful complete whole.

With such a disposition, I see the students in my classes generally as human beings, each with his/her unique stories, intelligences and strengths which could be nourished to guide the individual student and the class as a whole to reach their potentials in their chosen fields.

Even in my professional relationships with female colleagues, I have realized that they are sometimes able to bring a refreshing different perspective to issues which, I must be sincere, I, as a man may not be aware of. We may be different, but I know we are equals who need one another to ensure a successful existence.
In diving students into groups at the beginning of the programme, it is my usual practice to ensure the groups, while created with the perceived intelligences as the primary consideration, are made up of both boys and girls. Such pairings/groupings allow the students to learn and work together in a cooperative manner. This in turn, allows them to cultivate a sense of mutual respect and understanding for one another.
By appreciating the qualities or capabilities of one another, they go through the programme seeing one another as equal partners.

Even in a conservative society like mine which is male dominated, the initial prejudices of looking down upon the girls, which the boys have grown up with, wears off after some time of learning and working with girls on group tasks and assignments.

Another good way of promoting gender equality in the classroom is assigning leadership roles to the girls when they are proven to be capable. This boosts their self-confidence and as time goes on, wins them the respect of the boys. A female group leader who is able to excellently coordinate the activities of her group is quickly accepted by the boys as an equal who is consulted in issues other than curricular activities.

In designing our learning materials, I usually consider the general interests, intelligences and emotional disposition of the various students. By ensuring there are parts of the learning activities that every student can relate to, regardless of sex, race or other differences, everyone is able to contribute to the discussions and assignments.

A more direct method could be to raise societal issues that border on gender inequality, and throw them up for general discussions during our free periods. Examples of such questions include:

 There are more men than women in politics; would it make any difference if we had more women?
 Should there be any occupation that is strictly reserved for women?

Such questions would provoke deep reflections among the students and diverse opinions will certainly crop up, giving me an opportunity to learn more of the outlook of the students towards gender issues, and thus be able to guide the class clear long held prejudices borne out of misconceptions and false myths.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Gender, Socialization, and Violence – My Reflections

The socialization process in my immediate community is built upon a strong chauvinist tradition that has relegated women to the backseat in all spheres of human existence.

On a general note, while boys are trained from birth to aspire towards economic independence by acquiring academic and vocational skills, the girls are conditioned to prepare for a life of total dependency on the males, as full time, unskilled, uneducated, and unemployed housewives.

The average member of the society here holds the belief that the place of a woman is simply in a husband’s house, without much inclination towards empowering them with any occupational skill that could make them become productive members of the society. The only production they are seen to be fit for being only the production of babies!

This mentality leads to many families not inclined to put in much resources and effort towards educating the girl child. The enrolment rate for girls in schools is very low. Despite the fact that the last National census showed that the population of women is higher than men in Nigeria, more than half of the girls don’t get to acquire Secondary education. The main cause is because their education is not regarded as being important since they’d end up simply becoming housewives producing babies in some man’s house.

Girls thus conditioned to prepare themselves for life by learning to make themselves attractive to get a husband, do household chores and take of babies. Not much importance is placed on their schooling, the few who go beyond secondary school level have to work extra hard to survive in the male dominated and controlled schools.

Being so completely dependent upon the men folk and not equipped with much occupational skills to fend for themselves, many girls go through life silently enduring all forms of physical and psychological abuse in their husband’s houses.
They are usually married off at very early ages, sometimes as young as 12, thus they are often physically and psychologically not matured to handle the complexities of marital life. These girls are not able to do anything even if when faced with various kinds of abuse from husbands who see them as properties they acquired for their personal pleasures and to take care of their houses. The societal conditioning makes the girls themselves to simply accept all the abuse as being normal, they believe that is how it should be and that there is nothing that can be done to effect change!.

In many homes, their acceptance of tradition supported discrimination makes it a taboo for girls to aspire to higher education. Most girls end their academic pursuits at the primary school level or at best, the secondary school level.

There is a widespread belief among many people that if a woman is given access to higher education, she will not be humble and subservient to her husband as their perception of tradition requires.

The few girls who manage to go ahead to universities, polytechnics, or colleges of education mostly aren’t allowed free choices in their courses of study. Pressures from the home or from those around them condition them to go for ‘lady-like courses’. Though not officially acknowledged, the schools themselves seem to have an entrenched discriminative policy in place which places higher priority on admitting more boys than girls into institutions of higher learning.

My observation is that the girls grow up believing in and upholding the traditional view of their role being mainly limited to the domestic tasks. consequently, they tend to grow up accepting these false beliefs, and acting with the wrong conviction that they must tailor their values and attitudes to be in tune with the society’s expectations of them, even if it is dehumanises them!

Gender related violent crimes like rape and sexual harassment in schools and the workplace are bye products of the society’s definition of what the woman is.
The social stigma attached to rape makes most rape incidents go officially unreported. Many victims of gender related violent crimes simply suffer the physical and psychological trauma in silence. The few government agencies and Nongovernmental Organizations involved in women rights issues, are not well funded and equipped to carry their activities. And they laws of the land do have prescribe stiff penalties for gender related crimes even if perpetrators are convicted. Rehabilitation facilities are virtually nonexistent.

Though it is quite complicated and enormous, the task of effecting transformation has potential possibilities for achieving success. Many females have worked hard through the unfavourable system and made a success of their professional lives in diverse field, without in any way neglecting their roles as wives and mothers.
These women serve as role models whose achievements can be used to guide girls to see the possibilities that exist for them if try!

Viewing socialization as an ever evolving process, there is cause for optimism. The emergence of many women in leadership positions in diverse spheres of societal activity places them in position to make sure public policies are designed and implemented with due consideration for gender equality.

Currently, there are many serving female ministers in the Federal cabinet who have really proven to be equals (if not betters) of their male counterparts (Prof. (Mrs) Ruqayyatu Ahmed Rufa'i of Education and Dr Okonjo-Iweala of Finance are examples).
A host of other notable women are also holding top management positions in both the public and private sectors. The contributions to the national policy debates have in many ways being helpful in getting policies being designed and implemented with consideration for gender equality.

Most importantly, these women’s outstanding performances in their professions coupled with their proven moral integrity, is certainly having an affect on the societal perception of a woman’s worth and abilities. This will go a long way in changing the society’s perception of girls. Though it is a long process, it is one which is sure to make a change as time goes by.
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