Help the Afghan Children (HTAC), Afghanistan
Shakira grew up in Afghanistan amidst more than four decades of war and conflict, which have severely impacted both social and psychological growth, resulting in conflict and violence becoming a common part of everyday life, particularly affecting children. Shakira was no exception and says that her own behaviour also worsened because of this situation, too often resorting to shouting and punishment, resolution tactics she also played out at school.
Shakira is a school teacher in Sheberghan, and today teaches Peace Education (PE) to 8th and 9th grade students under the HTAC project; Prevention of Violence Against Women and Girls (PVAWG). Before she understood the value of living peacefully she reveals her previous teaching methods and practices applied in the classroom of abuse of students, using corporal punishment, (getting students out of the class and pulling their ears). When students did not bring their homework, she threatened them with punishment, and was generally harsh with them. Even when at home she used to shout, beat and punish her own children on small issues. According to Shakira; “Now I know my children remained frightened and were scared all the time. I realize how cruel I was to my own and other children at school. Many of the students left school and migrated to other neighbouring school due to my unpleasant behaviour”.
The utilization of corporal punishment has been common place in school settings. Baseline findings from the PVAWG programme indicates that 35.5% of teachers reported utilizing corporal punishment (HTAC baseline 2017, unpublished).
Ms. Shakira says that when she was asked about her attitude and behaviour and why she was punishing students, she said that she had strived to prevent herself from shouting, abusing and punishing but couldn’t stop and most of the time she felt really sorry and bad. She says that one day her daughter had gone to a course without her permission. She was very angry and punished her a lot which was really horrible. Her daughter mentioned and condemned this a lot.
Shakira says, “When I was informed by the Jawzjan Provincial Education Directorate that I had been selected for the PE in my school I was astonished and said how could I teach a PE programme given my harsh practices and behaviour? I took the challenge and participated in PE training conducted by HTAC. This has transformed my attitude toward punishment, in particular shouting at children.”
Shakira continued; “By the time the (PE) process was inaugurated in schools, I utilized my training learning, techniques and methodologies to manage the classroom, giving opportunities to students to talk about the roles they were given in each exercise. Students were practicing exercises in groups and role plays, and it wasn’t only the students but I found the methods very interesting, productive and helpful too. I have gained confidence to manage my school classes properly and when other students were notified that I have changed, they also requested to participate in PE. The programming boosted my understanding and empowered me on various aspects of conflict management, teaching of lessons, positive role modelling, student encouragement on achievements and good feelings. Not only have I changed, but my students are able to analyse the root causes of conflicts, they are able to mediate and reconcile among other students and now most of them have at least resolved one school conflict.”
“To date, it has been almost two years that I have been teaching HTAC (PE) in my school and I am surprised and feel so proud that I have settled both my attitude and behaviour too. The new strategy of peace is my duty to apply everywhere to prevail peaceful thoughts among others. At home, I am now a confident and patient mother and treating my sons and daughter equally and resolve all disputes in a proper manner.
And finally, I hope all teachers can participate in the PE programme to proceed with peaceful minds in their daily lessons.” Peace For All.