In J&K Schools, Peace To Be A Lesson
9 April 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Born in a state still being rocked by blasts and gunbattles, the children of Jammu and Kashmir will now be imparted daily lessons on peace, human dignity and mutual respect. The state Department of Education, with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), will launch a pilot project this May 1 to teach humanitarian law to children in the 13-18 age group as part of school curriculum. The project will be launched across 18 schools - nine in the Valley and nine in Jammu - and will be later extended to higher secondary schools across the state. According to J&K officials, the programme is part of the ICRC Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) project which is being implemented in 90 countries. The programme, conducted at 20 sites between 1999 and 2001, was found to be useful. 'Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) is an educational programme for young people. Its objective is to introduce adolescents to basic rules of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and help them embrace principles of humanity in daily lives and the way they assess events at home and abroad,' said Mohammad Rafi, J&K's Director, Education. The 12-week programme will be sensitising students to human rights and the need to respect human dignity, particularly during conflict, understanding of humanitarian issues and the various aspects of IHL, the complexities of its application. It also aims to develop interest in international events, humanitarian action and the ability to analyse them knowledgeably. To start with, the pilot project will cover classes IX and XI. 'It talks about gender sensitivity, human sensitivities and emotions in the backdrop of violence,' said Rafi. The government says the idea is to develop capacity to view conflict situations at home and abroad from a humanitarian perspective, bring about active involvement in community service or other forms of engagement for the most vulnerable members of society. 'More generally, EHL contributes to developing social awareness in young people and sharpens their sense of civic responsibility,' said Rafi. The government has so far two teachers as resource persons in each school. 'We are finalising the curriculum. The resource material, available with ICRC, is easily adaptable,' he said. Resource material in the Exploring Humanitarian Law package include teacher and student material, a student video, a methodology guide, a teacher training video, an implementation guide and a glossary. The programme structure and methodology prescribed by the ICRC stipulates: • Minimum of 40 minutes of lessons for 12 weeks with five core modules • The nature of humanitarian act and the role of bystanders • The need to regulate armed conflicts and basic rules of IHL • Implementation and enforcement of IHL, the question of responsibility • The need to try and punish perpetrators of violations and the importance of reconciliation • The need for and the requirement of humanitarian action in times of armed conflict. The programme provides teaching material that can be integrated into secondary curricula as a subject or as part of existing subject areas. The programme can be delivered as an optional after-school activity or taught in out-of-school settings such as youth development programmes or summer camps. The government has set July- end as the deadline for completion of the programme in the Valley and September-end for the Jammu region. 'The results from the pilot project will decide the next step for other schools,' Rafi said.