Pakistan: Making Schools Safer - Field Diaries, Day One: Peshawar
14 January 2016
Education as a tool for peace
By Mubashir Fida
The atmosphere in KPK’s schools is quite tense at the moment. The impact of the APS attack has been huge, on staff and teachers but particularly on children. Schools are now obliged to implement security measures like armed guards, barbed wire, and raised walls. And while these precautions are well-intentioned, they inevitably take a psychological toll on the children, who are scared to study in such an environment.
On 21st December, RedR’s Pakistan team attended a sports gala organised by the Peace Education and Development (PEAD) project, which aimed to provide some relief for children. It was a joint initiative, organised in partnership with a public school and Madrassas (religious schools). The focus was on education as a tool for peace. It’s a really good way of bringing children from different educational backgrounds together so they can exchange ideas and learn from each other. All the kids want to become pro cricketers, so they exchange batting techniques and bowling styles!
Tariq Hayat is Project Manager at the Peace Education and Development project. He attended RedR’s training in safety, security and conflict-sensitive education in October 2015. Since then he has been incorporating what he learnt into the PEAD project, which is implemented in ten public schools for boys and ten Madrassas (for boys and girls), all in Peshawar District.
"Sports activities involve a mixture of students from different schools," he explains. "The aim is that children make new friends and exchange knowledge. It’s particularly good for the Madrassa students as they don’t usually get to interact with the outside world.
At the same time, teachers from both kinds of schools are being trained to draw up safety and security plans for their schools, including disaster preparedness, disaster management and response, mock drills, identifying safe evacuation routes, and so on."
Since the training, Mr Hayat has passed on his knowledge of conflict-sensitive education to 61 male teachers involved in the PEAD project, and three additional female staff members, each of whom has gone on to train 50 female teachers.
Sixteen-year-old Shayan (left) attends Government High School for Boys No. 3 in Peshawar. His team won today’s match. Shayan bowled two overs, taking two wickets for 17 runs.
"Playing with the Madrassa students is great - we teach them various techniques and we also learn from them about team work. They are together all the time so they really know how to work as a team.
When you play sports with people you don’t know, it’s difficult because you have no idea of their aptitude or their way of playing. But halfway through the match, we became friends. Sports make children happy. We forget about the sad situation that’s prevailing. The protection structures are not a nice thing to see. But we’re not afraid. And to show that, we will continue our education and keep coming to school. That is how we will fight the evil ideas that these terrorists have."
Shayan’s teacher, Haji Habibullah, agrees.
"Sports are important for children’s physical and psychological development - particularly at the moment," he says. "Currently, children are under a lot of stress, and they have been for the past year. After the APS attack, we were all really shocked. We felt like they were our own children that died. We will never forget that brutal day in our nation’s history.
It is interesting to interact with children and teachers [called Ustaad] from the Madrassa. We have been able to explain to the teachers how the public school system works, and we have learned from the Ustaad about how they teach."
Madrassa student Muhammad Aamir, 15 (above right), is also happy with how the day went.
"We felt happy to leave the Madrassa and come and play with new friends. Inside the Madrassa, we have physical activities but they are very limited. We learnt a lot from our new friends. We learnt about cricket, and some very good ideas about life."
All photos © Usman Ghani for RedR UK
This project is supported by the Clothworkers’ Foundation, alongside several private donors.