Building Peace Through Education In Pakistan
an article by Robin Brooke-Smith for Gandhara (abridged)
Awarding this year's Nobel Peace Prize to Malala
Youzafzai is a glimmer of hope for building lasting
peace in Pakistan through quality liberal
education. . . Malala's inspiring story has attracted
global attention, but I feel a key lesson of her
struggle often gets less attention.
Robin Brooke-Smith talking to students wearing the distinct green blazers of Edwardes College.
click on photo to enlarge
The lesson is that all the weapons and military
might in the world will not restore peace to
Pakistan unless it partners with the world to invest
in an education sector capable of teaching the
country's tens of millions of students a new
worldview and skills compatible with the
contemporary economy and global currents.
After suffering tremendously at the hands of
extremists and as a result of military operations
during the past decade, Pakistanis have at last
woken up to the dangers posed by extremism to
their security, livelihoods, and even to the very
existence of their country. . .
I saw this storm brewing when I was principal of
Edwardes College in Peshawar in the late 1990s.
The ancient city is the capital of the Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa province, and I had a ringside seat
to the beginnings of Islamist extremism there as
the shadows of terror lengthened in the run-up to
September 11 and beyond.
Edwardes College is an old church foundation and
a remarkable place, whose founding aim was to
create a “community of harmony and peace.” With
95 percent Muslim and 5 percent Christian
students, the frontier between Islam and
Christianity ran right through the college.
Even in those days of relative calm and peace in
Pakhtunkhwa, there were signs of tempests to
come. We witnessed the rise of the Taliban and
Al-Qaeda, often with the acquiescence of
Pakistan's powerful military.
My main challenge at the college was to promote
and preserve the values of liberal education. While
the society outside the college fence was being
rapidly radicalized through violence, the media,
and political mobilization, we concentrated on
promoting free thinking.
As the college celebrated its centenary in 2000,
another of my major challenges was to make it co-
educational. I will never forget the support I
received from Muslim and Christian parents who
took great pride in adorning their daughters in the
green and white uniforms of one of the best
institutions in their province.
Many of the parents, politicians, and officials
helped us to counter the rumors and venom from
radical mullahs and their sympathizers that the
media spewed against us. I also had to constantly
battle against the Diocese of Peshawar, who
wanted to control the college because it was seen
as a prized possession for Peshawar's
impoverished Christian community. . .
Pakistan now must build a peaceful future rooted
in the strengths and preferences of its people.
Investment in liberal education is essential for
building peace and a lasting culture of tolerance
Robin Brooke-Smith is the author of Storm Warning:
Riding the Crosswinds in the Pakistan-Afghan
Borderlands (London, I.B. Tauris, 2012).
[Thank you to the Newsletter of the Global
Campaign for Peace Education for alerting us to
Question(s) related to this article:
What is the relation between peace and education?,
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Letter from Mohatma Gandhi to Maria Montessori.
To Madame Montessori
Even as you, out of your love for children, are endeavoring to teach children, through your numerous institution, the best that can be brought out of them, even so, I hope that it will be possible not only for the children of the wealthy and the well-to-do, but for the children of paupers to receive training of this nature. You have very truly remarked that if we are to reach real peace in this world and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with children and if they will grow up in their natural innocence, we won't have the struggle, we won't have to pass fruitless idle resolutions, but we shall go from love to love and peace to peace, until at last all the corners of the world are covered with that peace and love for which, consciously or unconsciously, the whole world is hungering.
Mohatma Gandhi, Young India, 19-11-''31