Education for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina

A project aiming to transform an entire society (Dr. H. B. Danesh)

 

In mid-2000, the International Education for Peace Institute, started by Dr. H. B. Danesh, launched a two-year pilot Education for Peace project in three primary and three secondary schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It involved approximately 400 teachers and school staff and 6,000 students, plus 10,000 parents and guardians (1).

“The aim and challenge of the project ‘was’ to educate every new generation of students to become peacemakers and to devote their talents, capacities and energies towards the creation of a civilization of peace based upon the pillars of a culture of peace, a culture of healing and a culture of excellence.”

In light of the project’s success in its early years, Education for Peace was ultimately invited by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, the 13 Ministries of Education and the nine Pedagogical Institutes to introduce its program into all primary and secondary schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina – a mammoth undertaking. These schools have over 1 million students, 110,000 teachers and staff, and 1.5 million parents.

Personally, I am not aware of another project of this kind anywhere in the world…that is, an attempt to transform an entire society from the “ground up” through the education of primary and secondary school children in peace principles and practices. And yet, it seems to make so much sense!

I am reminded of hearing about an early meeting where parents and community leaders were discussing whether or not to accept the Education for Peace program into the initial six schools. When the discussion amongst (mostly) men grew heated and descended into threats and anger, a lady, a mother, stood and shouted,

“For years we have sent our sons off to fight and die – for what? Here we have a possible solution to this foolish conflict. I say we try it.” (Note: Approximate wording). This was a turning point and the Education for Peace-Balkans program was born.

In addition to the education and training in peace principles and practices, a main component of the Education for Peace program is the holding of peace events in schools and communities. This involves the sharing of student’s perspectives on the application of the peace principles being taught. Presentations are made to teachers, friends and family, the media, officials and the public. Some of these are huge events, with students from 100 or more schools gathering together for conferences and events.

Over the years I have lost touch with the long term, sustainable results, and outcomes, of the Education for Peace-Balkans program; however, I heard and experienced the impact the program had on some of the teachers and students. It is personal, emotional and life-changing. One huge measure of success is that ,“In 2012, all pedagogical Institutes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, under the direction of their respective Ministries of Education, assumed the implementation of the Education for Peace programs into schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

I believe the Education for Peace-Balkans program is a fascinating, challenging example of an initiative that offers huge promise for changing individuals and entire societies that are mired in conflict.

 

By: Gord Breedyk, Civilian Peace Service Canada, www.civilianpeaceservice.ca.

 

(1) EFP – A Country-Wide Peace Education program in Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDIM.NGO/241/08, 3 October 2008)

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