Strategies for building awareness for the potential of peace education in Cameroon
Author: Ben Oru Mforndip
Originally Published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on: 01/26/2018
Peace education is absent in Cameroon formal, non-formal and informal settings. This is the reason why many persons do not know about it.The lack of awareness of Peace Education is probably the causes of high rate of violence and conflicts in Cameroon. Though neglected or ignored, there are a good number of strategies that can be used to build awareness for and about peace education in Cameroon. Although peace education is not known in Cameroon, there are conditions or potentials of peace education in Cameroon. Below we shall examine some of the strategies to build awareness for and about peace education in Cameroon as well as show evidence that there is a great need of Peace Education in Cameroon.
Peace education is so far away, yet so near and is the greatest weapon to fight terrorism, violence and conflicts. One wise man once said that” my people perished for lack of knowledge. There is total ignorance of peace education in Cameroon. But we know that peace education is very important and if introduced in the society could go a long way in solving humanity problem. What is it that can be done so that many persons know about peace education?
There are many strategies that can be used to build awareness for and about peace education. First, organize peace Conference. During this conference, invite persons, both from the public and private sectors and talk to them about peace education, what it is, what it does. Through this way many people will then know about peace education. Second, organize peace education fora and invite peace scholars to talk about the need and implementation of peace education. When this is done, several persons will then become acquainted with peace education and its possibilities. Third, organize peace education seminar workshops. Invite teachers, headteachrs, principals and other education stakeholders and talk to them about the benefits of peace education in schools and in the society at large. When so many of these Persons know about peace education, they can make recommendations to the government for its implementation. Fourth, engaged in dual conversation between people about peace education. By engaging in such conversation, many will become aware of the existence of such a subject. Fifth, Write paper on peace education and present them in conference, seminars or on graduation ceremonies. When this is done many persons will become aware of peace education. Sixth, use the radio and television to inform and educate peoples about peace. This is because the radio and the television are important mediums to build awareness. Lastly, the social media is another great venue to build awareness about peace education. The social media has helped me a great deal in building awareness for and about peace education. Many persons in Cameroon know about peace education today because of the several postings and discussions I have been making on the social media on especially Facebook.
Though little or nothing is known about peace education in Cameroon, there are a lot of potentials for peace education in Cameroon. In the paragraphs below we attempt to x-ray some of the conditions that necessitate the teaching of peace education in Cameroon. Conflicts and violence are inevitable and appear to be part of human existence worldwide. To understand whether Cameroon faces some challenges to peace that warrant the teaching of peace education, it is important to study some key events as presented by British Broadcasting Cooperation BBC (2010) and the history of Cameroon – timeline of the International Crises Group, Africa Report N°160 of 25th May 2010. Plan Cameroon, Cameroon National Institute of Statistics, articles about Cameroon in the Africa Confidential Journal, textbooks and the International Crisis group report on Africa. In 2007 for example, Mbessa and Oku, two villages in the North West region of Cameroon clashed over a piece of land. In the same year, Bali –Nyonga and Bawock, two agricultural ethnic groups clashed over land and forest related issues. The struggle for the re-birth of multi-partism in the 1990s, electoral boycott and flaws, and continuous mutilation of the constitution provoked political and institutional instability. Africa Confidential (2008) reports that “hundreds of unarmed civilians were shot down during nationwide anti government strikes in the early 1990s following the forceful re – introduction of multiparty”. The persistent increase in prices of basic commodities plunged the country into a nationwide strike and civil disobedience that led to wanton destruction of both public and private properties and loss of lives. The February 2008 violence in the larger towns of Cameroon was the worst in recent times as rioters were ostensibly protesting against increased prices in fuel and basic commodities. After looting and destruction in both public and private institutions, the police and later the army, responded in their best known way, by shooting down demonstrators: twenty were killed during a week of protests (Africa Confidential, 2008). The countdown to the presidential election in late 2011 can be seen as a potential source of violence following condemnation of the constitutional amendment in 2008 indefinitely extending the number of years of the presidential term. Former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, – noted that nothing could convince him that there is only one single leader capable of governing Cameroon (Africa Confidential, 2008). The wind of change sweeping across North Africa may likely affect Cameroon since the current President has been in power for almost three decades. The International Crisis Group (2010) equally expresses fear of instability in Cameroon as they report on constitutional and legal uncertainty; rivalries between the regime’s leading figures; the government’s attempts to control the electoral process; the rupture of the political contract between leaders and the population; widespread poverty and frustration; extensive corruption; and the frustration of a large part of the army – all pointing to the possibility of a major crisis.
Cameroon’s human rights record also shows a very poor image. According to Amnesty International (2009), an estimated 100 civilians were killed by security forces in late February 2008 following demonstrations against the rising cost of basic commodities. Security forces have repeatedly used force on civilians, intimidating and arresting political opponents, human rights activists and journalists. Africa Confidential (2010) reported the death of a journalist who launched an investigation into allegations of corruption at the heart of the presidency in the notorious Kondengui maximum security prison. This led to demonstrations both in Cameroon and abroad. The paper reports that the government mobilized armed troops to break up peaceful protest by over 300 journalists. The US Department of States (2010) review on the 2009 state of human rights in Cameroon holds that:
“-Human rights abuses included security force torture, beatings, and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. Authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained citizens advocating secession, local human rights monitors and activists, persons not carrying government-issued identity cards, and other citizens……incidents of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial detention and infringement on privacy rights.
In the past few years, massive cases of disappearing and kidnappings have been recorded in the Far North of Cameroon. There is serious incursion into the Cameroon territory by the Islamist Boko –Haram. Now and then there are attacks from the Boko Haram.These incidents are causing people to live in uncertainty and fear. Laing, (1978) said that, “Peace education is an attempt to respond to problems of conflict and violence on a scale ranging from the global and national to the local and personal. It is about exploring ways of creating more just and sustainable futures”. Schmidt and Friedman (1988) said that, “Peace education is holistic. It embraces the physical, emotional, intellectual, and social growth of children within a framework deeply rooted in traditional human values. It is based on the philosophy that teaches love, compassion, trust, fairness, cooperation and reverence for the human family and life on our beautiful planet “Peace education is skill building. It empowers children to be creative and adopt non-destructive ways to settle conflicts and to live in harmony with themselves, others, and their world…Peace building is the task of every human being and the challenge of the human family. UNESCO (2005) defines Peace education as a process of developing knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors and values that enable learners to: identify and understand sources of local and global issues and acquire positive and appropriate sensitivities to these problems, resolve conflicts and to attain justice in a non-violent way, live by universal standards of human rights and equity by appreciating cultural diversity, respect for the earth and for each other.”UNESCO (2007) defines Peace education as a concept directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It promotes understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups and furthers the activities of the united nation for the maintenance of peace. Reardon, (1989), refers to peace education as a system and or a process of education that enable Participants to empower themselves with knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and beliefs, which, build culture of peace, non-violence, and sustainability. It enables learners to critically analyze the root causes of violence, war, conflict and social injustice. Also Jenkins, (2005), states that “Peace education is an attempt to respond to problem of conflict and violence on a scale ranging from local to global”. Peace education is about exploring ways of creating a more just and a sustainable future. Again, in the words of Deutsch (1993), peace education is mainly a matter of cultivating a set of skills. The general purpose here is to get acquire a non-violent disposition and conflict resolution skills” prime examples of such would be school based, violence prevention programs, peer mediation, and conflict resolution programs. Again Bar-Tal and Raviv (1999) state that “Peace education is mainly a matter of changing mindsets; the general purpose is to promote understanding, respect and tolerance towards yesterday enemies”. According to Fountain (1999,) Peace education in UNICEF refers to:-
“ the process of promoting the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to bring about behavior changes that will enable children, youth and adults to prevent conflict and violence, both overt and structural: to resolve conflict peacefully; and to create the conditions conducive to peace, whether at an intrapersonal, intergroup, national or international level.”
Harris, (2002), said that “Peace education requires teaching encounters that bring out from people their desires for peace and provide them with diplomatic alternatives for managing conflicts, as well as the skills for critical analysis of the structural arrangements that legislate and produce injustice and inequality “Harris and Morrison (2003) see peace education as a “process that involves empowering people with the skills attitudes, and knowledge to create a safe world and build a sustainable environment” Furthermore UNESCO defines, vividly, peace education as “a set of values, attitudes, models of behaviours and ways of life that rejects violence and prevent conflicts by tackling their roots causes to solves problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and Nations”
From the above discussion and by all indication as justified by the contextual situation in which Cameroon now finds itself, many persons are not aware of peace education but this can be improved with the strategies that we just discussed above.One thing remains clear, the potentials of peace education exist, it is only through the teachings of peace education that some of the challenges to peace can be addressed.
Bio: Ben Oru Mforndip, Teacher Trainer, Government Bilingual Teachers Training College Ebolowa.