Pal-Think for Strategic Studies carried out the thirteenth episode of “Non-Violence is A Life-style ” radio broadcast, within “The Palestinian Consortium for Nonviolence” project, implemented by Pal-Think and FXB France.
In a follow-up on the issue of violence against children and finding solutions for it; Pal-Think casts light on the school curricula adopted in Palestine, and their adherence to and promotion of concepts of non-violence and the practical applications among the new generation. The episode was hosted by the author and scholar, Dr. Nasser Al-Yafawi, and the Initiatives Coordinator at Bena’a Youth Center, Mr. Khaled Abu Jami.
To begin with, Dr. Nasser expressed that developing the curricula in Palestine is an ongoing process, and that the last adjustments were made two years ago, aiming at promoting the philosophy of peace and dialog and political, ethnic, racial, and religious tolerance; which correctly following the idea of religious acceptance in a way that doesn’t renounce the concepts of hatred. For instance, in the coursebook of the social studies for the twelfth grade, one can find a lesson on the will of the Sahabi Abu Bakr as-Sadiq saying, “Do not kill a child, do not take off a tree, do not kill an elderly man, do not murder a woman.” Also, the principles of the international law introduced by the intellectual Henri Dunant following the Battle of Solferino are “Tolerance, non-discrimination, dignity, humanity.” In addition to the principles of the international law and the Red Cross and the reality of peace and international rights enshrined in the Rome Conference, this is what Palestinian students see in their curricula and the principles based on which they are raised. On the other side, this is contrary to what one can find in the Israeli curricula which propagate the philosophy of hatred and attributes a biblical dimension to it.A Doctor at Bar-Ilan University referred to the issue when he found a fragment of the Talmud included in the curriculum of the fifth grade (the age at which students are being empowered): “If you enter a village, kill them all, erase their images, destroy their cities. If you keep one of them, there would be clashes on your sides.” The doctor carried out a procedural survey and introduced the myth of Joshua the son of Nun to the students of the lower grades and asked them if they supported his elimination of the Palestinians. The result was shocking were they agreed 100 percent on the elimination.
Mr.Al-Yafawi stressed that as one of the institutions specialized in social upbringing, schools are not the sole responsibility in this area, as the child stores violence from all other entities, from the nuclear family to the extended one, to the mosque, to the streets, to the society, to school, etc. Thus, children might use verbal and physical violence against their weaker classmates. Even such practices as scribbling on school facilities like chairs, tables, and walls are the child’s way of punishing the school for their internal suppression. He added that the consequences of all such practices and violence against the child could not be blamed on the curriculum alone.
He stated that the process of curriculum development must be based on several criteria, the most important of which is compliance with reality. For instance, it is not possible to discuss the curricula of the Gaza Strip based on the reality of the Soviet Union, and they must instead be consistent with the students’ environment, and promote Palestinian values, morals, nationality, and social reality. He also added that schools affiliated to the UNRWA issued a circular that prohibits verbal and physical abuse of students, which used to be a common practice. This is also put into practice in the schools run by the Ministry of Education, which shows the harmony between the curricula, the developers of the curricula, and their implementation in the classroom. However, regarding the violence that comes as a societal secretion, there is need for an action plan and a revolutionary attempt from kinder gardens to universities.
For his part, Mr. Abu Jami elaborated on the initiative implemented by Bena’a Youth Center in collaboration with Pal-Think referred to as “Together to promote a culture of non-violence among school students.” The idea of the initiative was put forth by the students themselves after observing the existence and increasing rates of school violence. The Center thus decided to introduce their initiative in the form of an extracurricular activity outside the closed halls to materialize the most critical objectives, namely increasing the students’ respect for their rights by promoting tolerance, pardon, cooperation, love, and rejection of selfishness which yields violence. He added that the density and size of the curriculum and closed and overcrowded classrooms restrict the teacher to a specific timetable and limit their role in promoting the practices of non-violence among students.
He expressed that one of the goals of the initiative, which was achieved was to make students accessory to positive changes in schools and community departments around them, which would, in turn, contribute to the sustainability of the influence caused by the initiative and its objectives in spreading social peace. He noted that the work of the Center within a new strategy based on a peer-to-peer model.The model instructed the integration of students who practiced a culture of non-violence in the community with those who take violence as a way of life. The former guided the latter through a success story on non-violence and how their lives had changed positively from violence to non-violence.
Abu Jami went on to point out that the activities included camping and coexistence meetings in the courtyard of one of the schools in Abasan Al-Kabira [Greater Abasan] area, east of Khan Yunis in the south of Gaza Strip. In this program, many school students from all other areas of East Khan Yunis, including Abasan al-Jadida, Abasan al-Kabira, Bani Suheila, and Khuza’a, came together in meetings. It included sports activities and the application of non-violence through them, discussions among students about how to promote non-violence in the classroom and drawing murals on the walls of the school as well as some other walls in the Abasan al-Kabira area.
He also referred to the desire of the targeted students, their parents, and teachers to establish and continue such activities, saying that this indicated their belief in the significance and promotion of nonviolence. They also believed that there was not enough time during the school hours to be allocated to such initiatives to present it as an approach to resolve disputes among students. He concluded that a single initiative would not suffice to establish the behavior of students and the raise of their awareness of non-violence, and called on the entities of the civil society and government institutions to adopt initiatives that contribute to the insemination of non-violence.