Peace Education & Peaceful Spirited Educator

Friday, September 3rd, 2010

There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men” (Black Elk, 1953)

Peace is not the absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for a benevolence, confidence, justice (Baruch Spinoza)

  Even though there have not been any big scale horizontal conflicts recently, it is not possible to describe Indonesia as a conflict-free country. In the terms of peace building, the situation Indonesia could be described as ‘latent phase’, where conflicts may still erupt at any time when supported by triggering events in the community.

Art appreciation by teachers of MIN (Madrasah Ibtidaiyah Negeri/ State Islamic Primary School) Air Pinang

Indonesia is densely populated by a wide variety of different ethnical and religious communities, it is a complex society facing multidimensional issues such as participation on economic welfare, political power and socio cultural rights. Conflict potential is latent where differences in the degree of welfare follow the lines of ethnical, religious or other socio-cultural backgrounds. The resulting tension can lead to violent conflict if this plurality is mismanaged or even misused for individual gains.

 On a smaller scale, conflict potential lies in the use of a language of violence, which is perceived by some people as a successful method to solve problems. A culture of violence is cultivated through acts and communications of individuals and institutions in social, political and economic life. It is used to attain individual profit and to serve specific interests. On top of that, mass media that should be informative and educative not seldom directly promote violence in features and articles. Through a variety of forms and media violence influences mental development and individual attitudes.

 “We felt that TV programs have a great influence on childrens behavior,” said Helmawita (45) a teacher of Lhok Rukam Primary School. “Children tend to imitate the bahaviour  shown on TV programs,” added Abdullah Isa (29) a teacher of Pulo Kambing Primary School during the workshop on Development of Values in Learning and Teaching, conducted by Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), supported by Living Values Indonesia and the Education Department of South Aceh District.  The workshop was held in the aula of the local Education Department from June 29 to July 2, 2009.

 The answer to the issues raised was simply a system that has the ability to promote justice, respect and humanitarian principles to young generations as a base for a peaceful and harmonic living together. In other words, there is a general need for peace education,  that is not limited to only areas that experienced war or violence, but would benefit every individual and citizen empowering their personality and increasing their quality of  life.

  “Actually, there are many modules on peace education one for example was developed by UNICEF. However, JRS chose to use the Living Values approach as a tool for its peace education program in South Aceh,” explained Saefuddin Amsa, the coordinator of JRS’s Living Values Training. “There are three reasons why we choose this model. Firstly, Living Values is relevant in any situation, during conflict as well as during peace as Living Values explores the universal values in each person. Secondly, the Living Values approach provides a comprehensive set of tools and since Living Values develops universal values, it can become a basis for a lot of other activities,” said Amsa further.

 “The training ‘Development of Values during Learning and Teaching in School’ is in line with the mission and vision of the Education Department and can be integrated into the Sekohat or Sekolah Sehat (Healthy School) program,” explained Kasman (45), the secretary of Education Department of South Aceh. “Sekohat covers three main points, i.e. healthy learning and teaching activities, healthy environment and, healthy administration”. “Living Values tries to create healthy schools in learning and teaching process,” affirmed Taka Gani (44), the facilitator of Living Values Training.

 How does it work? What is most important is the process creating a peaceful school environment through learning activities, which provide space for students to develop and reflect on their values and base their actions on it. Some of these peace principles are respect, love, tolerance and cooperation. During the training the participants interpreted a culture of peace into their vision of an ‘ideal school’.

  “An ideal school is an environmently friendly school,” expressed Hamnis (43), a teacher of MIN Air Pinang. “And a school where the teacher understands the background of their students,” he added.

  “An ideal school is a school where teachers are willing to serve students and agree to temporary replace their parents,” added Marwati (40), the school principal of Ie Mirah Primary School.

 “An ideal school will be formed through love, when teachers do not discriminate between their students whether he/she is smart or not, rich or poor,” explained Yasmalinda Ningsih (41), the principal of MIN Air Pinang.

 A peace education program for schools that emphasizes the importance of the process will ask to follow peace education principles and approaches in each activity or interaction between individuals within the school. In the learning and teaching process teachers are generally the main actors. As the main objective of peace education is to create a culture of peace, the peaceful learning environment is a first step towards this objective. The teacher is the key person promoting this environment at school.

 A teacher concerned about the character development of his/her students should be aware of his/her own values and capacities for peace. Teachers are educators and as such they do more than just giving knowledge to students. Teachers play an active role in the student’s character & psychological development, as the teacher becomes a role model for the students.

  “Therefore, teachers and school principals are the first asked to explore the 12 values essential for the Living Values concept, to then integrate those values in the learning and teaching process and other daily activities of teachers at school,” said Elis, the School Project Coordinator of JRS South Aceh. “The School Project holds Living Values training before all other trainings, since the values are the core of each following activity of the School Project,” she added.

 In relation and interaction with the students, a peace educator would not consign himself as teacher who teaches students in the class. Moreover, a peace educator is capable of creating an open learning environment and is able to share and implement peace education skills in everyday’s life, e.g. with other educators, the principal or other parts of the community.

 “Active listening skills will help me to understand the students’ conditions. All this time I only saw the outside by using active listening skills, I can see the background of the students why they act like this or that,” revealed Kurnia (40), a teacher of Panjupian Primary School.

  “This training of Living Values in learning and teaching at school will help me to contribute to an ideal school, a school that is safe and peaceful, where students and teachers respect one another,” stated Evidawati (22), a teacher of Lhok Sialang Rayeuk Primary School.

  “Living Values Training will help teachers who teach in former conflict areas to create peace among the students and students with teachers,” explained Syakrimuna (42), a teacher of Ie Mirah Primary School.

  “By sharing experiences with teacher colleagues during this training, we learned about the conditions of other schools and how we can create an ideal school,  where our hopes and aspirations for a good national education will be fulfilled,” said Mardhiah (48), a vice principal of Panjupian Primary School.

 At the end, a peaceful spirited educator is not a teacher that simply goes to school to lecture facts to students. The peaceful spirited educator with all his/her embedded positive attitudes and peace values is able to widely stimulate those in other people. For Indonesia those peaceful spirited educators are needed not only to gain young generations for the aim of building a culture of peace and to provide them with the basics to peacefully solve the latent conflicts they will be facing. If there is a language of violence, we need to learn the language of peace. A first step is to learn its vocabulary like the 12 key Living Values and to practice it in school, in the community and the wider society.

Saefuddin Amsa and Paulus Enggal

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