By Shimali Senanayake
NEW YORK, 11 April 2013 – Teaching children to make peace in the classroom, on the playground, at home and in their communities can have a lasting impact on children to live in a world free of violence and conflict, said Grace Akallo, activist, formerly associated with an armed group.
Ms. Akallo spoke to UNICEF Television after a recent meeting on ways to end violence against girls in school.
Strong advocate for children’s rights
When she was 15 years old, in 1996, Ms. Akallo was abducted by rebels and forced to serve in Uganda’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). She was fortunate enough to escape the clutches of the LRA and return to school to complete her education.
Since then, she has become a strong advocate for children’s rights – and their right to a free, quality education.
“It is good we are teaching peacebuilding, but we also need to make sure that those programmes involve teachers, parents and the community,” Ms. Akallo said, commending UNICEF’s new Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy programme (PBEA).
The programme is supported by the Government of the Netherlands. Its aims include increasing inclusion of education into peacebuilding and conflict resolution policies; and increasing the capacities of children, parents, teachers and other responsible adults to prevent, reduce and cope with conflict, and promote peace and increase access to quality and relevant conflict-sensitive education that contributes to peace.
In 2010, across the globe, some 28 million of the 61 million children who were of primary school age but who were out of school lived in conflict zones. These children are vulnerable to recruitment into armed groups, sexual abuse, trafficking and child labour.
Each child living in a conflict-affected area has dreams and plans that are critical to a country’s future. Education is a shield for them and a key to realizing those dreams.
Ms. Akallo stressed that it may take time to reap the results and see the impact of peacebuilding, but also stressed the need for commitment to stay steadfast to the goal.
“We shouldn’t give up, saying we don’t see the results,” she said. “I want results, but we are so much results-oriented that we try to map everything at every step, forgetting that some things take effect later.”