To attain sustainable peace in any community that has experienced the ravages of war, store whether civil war or war between nations, case CPE believes that it is imperative to teach peace as a way of life not only within the school system but also in the communities.
In the case of Liberia, the 14-year civil war not only resulted in wanton destruction of life and property but also the collapse of core value systems of communities and governance systems. During most civil wars the greatest victims are children, who not only suffered and experienced unspeakable violence but also see their future destroyed – many becoming refugees or internally displaced, and are sexually exploited and abused. So when protracted civil war comes to an end, the successful reintegration of these children holds the key to sustainable peace in post-conflict societies.
Successful integration is only possible when efforts are taken to create the necessary environment in which both victims of the war and perpetrators of violence and egregious violation of human rights, many now living side-by-side, attending the same schools, and in some cases sitting in the same classrooms, can co-exist peacefully as citizens of one nation or country. We believe that teaching peace education is one amongst many efforts towards creating that environment and therefore serious attention must be paid to the content and curricula of post-conflict educational systems, in particular what war-affected children are learning and how they are learning.
To demonstrate our commitment to this noble cause, CPE is currently teaching peace education as a single subject in several grade schools and peer mediation in several local communities in Liberia. CPE’s efforts are dedicated to teaching young people the underlying causes of violence, both direct and indirect, knowledge and skills needed to identify the symptoms of violence, to resolve conflict peacefully if it arises, and to live a non-violent lifestyle.
CPE believes that its efforts in this regard may already be having some positive impact. While we are yet to undertake a scientific evaluation, reports from officials of schools we are conducting peace education suggest that incidents of violence have decreased by 80%. In addition, school principals have acknowledged a sharp decline in student expulsions, dropping from 4-7 students a year to 1 or fewer since CPE started teaching peace education as a subject in their schools.
The importance of CPE’s peace education programmes are being appreciated beyond the school campuses. Today, several religious, traditional, and political leaders have requested CPE to implement the teaching of peace education related materials in their communities.