Mohammad Osman Hemat, Executive Director of Help the Afghan Children on the role of peace education in reducing corporal punishment in schools.
Although the government of Afghanistan has passed a law banning corporal punishment in schools, many teachers, especially in remote areas, continue to use it against students. This is cyclical as most of those teachers themselves experienced corporal punishment when they were at school. Indeed, this has been a common practice all over the country even in unofficial learning centers. Corporal punishment is strongly accepted in Afghanistan as well as beating and other forms of aggression seen as normal practice for controlling children and enforcing them to study and be more polite. However, research has shown that corporal punishment has negative impacts on learning ability and discourages regular attendance in school. In addition, the drop out and absentee rate can lead young children engaging in risky behavior and becoming vulnerable to criminal acts. In addition bullying, fighting and aggressive behavior amongst the young students is common in Afghanistan schools.
With Help the Afghan Children (HTAC) we have been implementing peace education since 2003 in diverse parts of the country to reduce conflicts between students and to encourage boys and girls to model positive behavior and solve their issues in a peaceful manner. HTAC also works with teachers to avoid corporal punishment and replace it with modern methods of discipline in schools they teach in. At HTAC we believe that peace education is a preventative strategy that can help new generations in a fragile state like Afghanistan to work toward solving their issues in a peaceful way. Our sustainable peace education program is designed to help children reject violence and embrace the principles of peaceful everyday living and train teachers for positive discipline. Our program is dramatically changing the attitudes and behaviors of Afghan youth, especially boys, who now reject violence, practice non-violent conflict resolution, learn patience, tolerance and respect for others while gaining self-confidence as well as teachers model positive behavior.
It is essential that civil society works together to have a voice in Afghanistan to advocate for including peace education in the national school curriculum for reducing corporal punishment and peer violence in schools.