Sunday, April 27, 2008

Teaching Peace

Teaching Peace. Some people might say that's what I came here to do. First off, my bengali is not good enough to teach anything other than English, so my teaching of peace is limited to times when I have a translator. But something is happening that is even better than learning peace. Children are learning peace through having fun.

I have watched as our peace programs at the school have developed. We started tentatively. Puppet shows about important themes, great stories to back it up, but sometimes unsure of the purpose. What are we doing here? The children were always excited to see what was in store for them, and seeing puppet shows is always interesting. And as we continued our confidence level grew, the children grasped the concepts and the discussions were enlightening. But every month still looked the same.

Now we have expanded. We are using new techniques and skills to not just teach peace, but to let the children discover peace on their own. This month was skit month. I am part of the Bolajpur School group, and we had 4 groups of students, each being helped by a teacher from the school. The students’ task was to develop a role-play and to come up with a solution to the conflict we presented. Then they had to present that skit to the class.

The conflict was this, there were two families in a village. One family owned a cow, one family owned a vegetable garden. There was also a neighbour family, but they were not involved in the conflict. The cow was, time and again, breaking away from its line and wandering into the vegetable garden and eating the vegetables. The first few times the vegetabel owner would return the cow to its owner and ask him to keep the cow tied up, the cow's owner would respond "Oh yes, he won't end up in your vegetables anymore." But invariably, the next day, there was the cow in the vegetables. The vegetable owner got so frustrated that one day, instead of returning the cow to the owner, he brought the cow to the Kuwar, the cow jail. Now the Kuwar is a spot in the bazaar where stray cows are brought if they are found wandering around. The owner, must then go to the bazaar and pay a fine to have his cow back. Therefore, having your cow brought to the Kuwar is expensive, and it is also embarassing. To have to pick up your cow from the Kuwar is shameful to a cow owner. Needless to say, the cow's owner took the actions of the vegetable owner as an attack against him. He was angry and bitter towards the vegetable owner. So in spite, the cow owner blocked off a path through his land which was often used by the vegetable owner. The conflict grew and this was where we turned it over to the children.

And the students didn't disappoint. They came up with funny, creative and all slightly different solutions to the conflict. In the end, each group decided to use the neighbouring family to help resolve the dispute, either through compensation of money, compromise, new tether to keep the cow from the vegetables, many different solutions to the same conflict. Success! The point was made. No two conflicts are ever alike, and no conflict has only one right solution, there are many ways of responding to each conflict, and some may be better than others, but there is always a choice of solutions.

The use of this activity was very exciting for me. To see the teachers and our team members work alongside the students, to help the students come up with their own skits and their own solutions to the problem. We didn't need to teach peace, we could assist the children in learning something they all knew at some level. This is part of the fun of peace. We often know what it is and how it works, we just don't spend the time to really think about it and use those skills when they would be most useful. I sincerely hope that this upward momentum in the learning and teaching styles in these schools can continue and thrive over the coming years. Not only in the teaching of peace, but in the life of the schools in general. It's not about teaching peace, it's about helping others to learn peace.


1 comment:

patrick stephens said...

it's so exciting to see what you and the brothers are up to in mymensingh these days. i love looking at your photos, as the faces in them bring back so many memories.

i am praying for you and your partners.