A ship journey to peace and beyond
“Listen! You are about to board the ship to journey to a faraway land, but the captain tells you that the boat is very small, so you can only take 18 items instead of 24. You must leave 6 of your items behind. Remember to think about what you will need to start a new society in a faraway land…,” a teacher in Win Da Ya village in Myanmar says to a group of captivated students.
“Journey to a Faraway Land” game is part of the chapter on identifying needs and problem solving in People in Need’s peace education curriculum currently piloted in Southeast Myanmar.
Cooperation and active citizenship, culture and community, respect for diversity, inclusive community, human needs and human dignity, empathy, non-violent communication, win-win solutions to disagreements and consensus building are some of the broad range of topics covered in “Learn and Share Together”, this education for peace curriculum implemented in Kayin State.
The region, located in the Southeast of Myanmar, has been amongst areas affected by armed conflict (between the Burmese army and ethnic armed organisations), described as one of the world's "longest running civil wars", ongoing from 1949. The ceasefire in the area was signed back in 2015 and that same year PIN´s Myanmar Social Cohesion Programme started operating.
During the decades of violence and conflict, the distrust between communities flourished. Furthermore, Myanmar -majority-Buddhist, multi-ethnic and multi-religious country- has been affected by communal violence most notably in Rakhine State located in western Myanmar. The country continues to be categorised as “partly free” and its democratic transition now “appears uncertain”. Incremental, day-to-day commitment to strengthening democracy, catalysing active citizenship and promoting peaceful coexistence at every level of society will be critical for the future of the country, especially with the upcoming elections in 2020.
“I think that it is very important to share this [peace curriculum] with as many people as possible around the country. People Need to respect and be peaceful with their neighbours and other communities regardless of their ethnicity and religion,” says U Mahn Aung Kyi, community leader from Ka Mar village participating in the project.
The whole curriculum has been designed jointly with local organisations Nyein (Shalom) Foundation and Youth Learning Center (YLC), aiming to nurture peaceful personal attitudes, behaviours, skills and capacities and to contribute to building a harmonious society in Myanmar. It consists of three key components: Toolkit for Communities, Toolkit for Teachers and a Student Book targeting middle school students between the ages of 10-14.
“This methodology is very useful for us because it is interactive and has a student-centred approach. It guides us on how to help students solve their problems and introduces concepts of critical thinking,” says Saw Kyaw Thar, teacher with over 22 years of experience from Shwe Taw village.
Engaged pedagogy approach mainstreamed in the curriculum is something out of the ordinary in an average Myanmar school, where rote learning is still prevalent. In contrast, participatory learning places learners at the centre of the experience, values their existing knowledge and life experience. Its goal is not to teach the right answer, but to facilitate critical thinking through exploring different opinions and perspectives, so learners can arrive at their own answers.
During the extra-curricular trainings, teachers get familiarised with this system, which they are later encouraged to apply in their regular teaching. Moreover, they address the practical part of the programme during the summer months (April – mid June) delivering education for peace trainings to their students.
Central to the methodology is the participatory planning of service learning projects. Following the trainings for community leaders, teachers and students, 20 participating schools and communities have received small funding for their own projects, aimed at addressing the needs they have identified and promoting peaceful coexistence. Variety of initiatives took place – starting with the inclusive Peace Olympics including football based on Football3 methodology, which focuses on fair play, equality and teamwork, cultural exposure trips to religious sites of different groups, peace essay writing events, planting peace gardens or organising drug awareness sessions for youth, as this is a major problem throughout the country.
“I really appreciate these toolkits – they focus on the design thinking, combine theory and practice and include participatory project planning – I think they might become very useful for CBOs [Community Based Organizations] that are directly working with the communities. It will become an important resource in the future,” said a collaborator from Nyein (Shalom) Foundation.
The original design and the participatory community-review of the “Learn and Share Together” curriculum has not been a process without challenges. Translation of the toolkits into Myanmar language has been particularly demanding. “In Myanmar language, it’s very difficult to find direct translations of words such as assertive communication. To explain the concept of ‘consensus’ we needed to use two sentences,” explains one of the members of the design team. “Moreover, the sensitivity of the topic proscribed us from using direct references to “peace” or “conflict,” he adds. Project activities are still ongoing but so far over 1500 children and over 1200 community members had been reached with trainings and /or post-training activities. PIN hopes to adapt this pilot project to other contexts in Myanmar and replicate together with local partners.
“This tool will help people understand how to respect each other, no matter who you are and where are you from. You will be able to stimulate a positive change in your community,” says a representative of Youth Learning Center, local partner organisation.
“Learn and Share Together” - download the documents in English:
“Learn and Share Together” - download the documents in Myanmar:
Teacher Training Curriculum (MYAN)
Student Activity Booklet (MYAN)
People in Need Myanmar in collaboration with Nyein (Shalom) Foundation, Youth Learning Center, 2018