Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Proving Peace Education Works

Development work is often volatile- we pour our hearts and souls into a program, and hope that our efforts will result in sustained impact. But even the most effective organization, complete with dedicated staff and deep community integration can find itself without sufficient funding and thereby paralyzed o continue their work.

As we’ve been labored over grant proposals aimed at securing funding for such continuance for our own impact, I’ve asked myself what the future will hold for the Insight Peace Education Project, and for myself as one of its staff. What could we do with 50k? 100k? 500k? What could we do, what do we want to do, and what would make for a quality continuation?

Beyond having ideas, the most important factor to ensuring a continued impact is having proof that the project is both affective and effective. While we’ve been following expert monitoring and evaluation protocols, I never expected to have any “evidence” that our materials worked within a mere few months.

When we recently sat down with our teachers for our monthly meeting, we were humbled to hear them report (unprompted, might I add) several significant changes that they’ve observed among their students since we began curriculum implementation. Female class participation has increased significantly. There is more order both inside the classroom and during break-times. Students have gained a sense of peer-enforced accountability. More students than ever before are making their way to the school libraries, requesting to take out books.

Could this all really be a result of our program? It’s both relieving and rejuvenating to know that our efforts have led to visible positive change. It’s rare to see the impact of one’s work so quickly, and these changes support the core beliefs behind our project- that children are malleable, and that through youth education we can positively affect the future.

Kaa Salama,


Monday, March 8, 2010

Are We Together?

During our week of teacher training workshops, we used various methods to get to know the five teachers we would be working with at our two pilot schools. As we moved through our sections on Identities and Communities, we gained insight into their lives. Our concern coming out of the workshop: How do you relay the same lessons and build the same trust and collaboration in a class of one hundred and fifty students effectively? Now that we’ve begun our classroom implementation phase, the answer is clear: you leave it to the professionals.

In the past four weeks, I’ve spent most of my time with the Primary 6 classes at Police Primary, watching their teacher, Nyerere, dominate the classroom in a way I could have never imagined. The first time I walked into his class, I had a heavy feeling at the bottom of my stomach, the same one I often get right before a big game. After the class greeted me, Nyerere wrote “Peace Education” on the board, and soared away with the planned lesson, while I sat in the corner and watched the show. As we discussed different ideas surrounding the meaning of the word peace, a hundred hands flew up in the air, and in forty short minutes, I had heard from virtually every student in the classroom. Looking around the classroom, I felt that each student had been touched by the lesson in one way or another.

The curriculum that we’ve offered the teachers is beyond interesting; it is educative, exciting and motivating. Still, a great classroom needs more than a great lesson plan. Typically, Nyerere opens his class with a review of what we talked about in our last lesson. As he emphasizes what’s important, he somehow finds little ways to relate his words to every single student, making the classroom erupt in laughter. Before you can blink, Nyerere has moved on and the children are quiet and attentive, and most importantly, extremely engaged. As he walks up and down the narrow isles in his classroom, he asks the class “Are we together? Are we together?” As the children say “Yes,” in unison, Nyerere offers a mellow “Ah,” and class continues.

It’s just about the most peaceful thing I’ve ever seen.

- Kijana