Children take the lead in preaching peace amongst Kenyans
By Daisy Serem
If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children ~ Mahatma Gandhi
MOMBASA, Kenya, 1 March 2013: Under the scorching heat in Kenya’s coastal town of Mombasa, students gather together from various schools in the region with one mission, to preach peace in their community. Their banner says it all, ‘Education for Peace – Making the voices of young Kenyans heard”, and with it they carry a peace torch as a unifying symbol that has been passed from one county to another.
The peace torch began its historic journey at the Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi on 27 August 2012 where Kenya’s President, His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, officially handed it over to the children. Since then the torch has travelled to every county in the country and children have received it enthusiastically and dedicated themselves to be ambassadors of peace. Through their participation the Kenyan public are drawn to engage in the cross-county campaign for peace and non-violence during and after the 2013 General Elections.
UNICEF Kenya Representative, Marcel Rudasingwa says, “This campaign has a theme that behoves us to reflect on how we are making a better world for children and young people in Kenya, transforming schools into safe havens and reducing gender-based violence so that they grow up with positive values and deep respect for human rights.”
Joining hands for peaceThe Peace Education Campaign is a joint effort by UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Daima Initiatives for Peace and Development (DiPaD) which seeks to ensure that the voices of the children and youth in Kenya are heard by all Kenyans. The young generation fully utilize their talents in drama and music as a medium for dialogue and non-violence which links their views, aspirations and hopes to peace efforts in the country.
The 2007/2008 Post Election Violence engulfed Kenyans in a volatile state following the disputed presidential election results. The polls culminated in a wave of ethnic violence; where neighbours turned against neighbours. Children, who had not even attained the age to vote, were thrust into the chaos, with thousands losing their homes, families and even their lives. It was a dark and devastating period in Kenya’s history since independence in 1963.
“Our schools were destroyed, our teaching and learning materials were destroyed, and there was the resultant trauma when these families were displaced from their homelands,” says Kiragu Magochi, the Director of Education Policy and Planning at the Ministry of Education.
Ambassadors of Peace
The post-election chaos was the genesis of the Peace Education initiative that sought to bring healing to the nation and what better way than through the voices of the children. Thousands of children all over Kenya took part in various peace projects such as peace songs, drama, skits, poetry, tree planting and more.
11 year old Allan Murimi is a student at Kwale Primary School. He remembers vividly the events that took place five years ago when the country was divided along ethnic lines. His education was affected when students had to stay home due to insecurity as many schools were turned into battlefields, with school property destroyed. This year public schools will once again be used as voting stations and students hope that peace will reign as Kenyans elect their leaders.
“Peace is important for children because when there is peace we can read well and excel,” says Allan. “Wherever you live, maintain peace and live with one another in peace.”
Light your Peace Torch
After traversing all the 47 counties of Kenya the Peace Torch made its way back to the President who received it at State House in a colourful ceremony attended by top Ministry of Education officials, teachers and children. He reiterated his message for peace in the coming elections and appealed to Kenyans to shun violence and resolve disputes in a peaceful manner for the sake of the country and more so the children.
"We owe it to this nation to maintain peace before, during and after the forthcoming elections,” said President Kibaki at State House.
The Peace Education initiative will be instilled within the school curriculum to carry the peace message for generations to come. Through peace education in schools children can adopt tolerance for one another despite their diverse socio-economic status, ethnicity or religious background.