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Stepping up the Conscience Credo at School

Katherine By Katherine Abraham
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Stepping up the Conscience Credo at School

In the wake of the recent terror attack in Pulwama, India saw an unjustified agitation in various parts of the country where various politically motivated activists took to the streets and forced out young Kashmiri students out of their rented homes after threatening their landlords. One story from ‘The Wire’ highlighted a tiny shop in Uttarakhand which bore posters of “Dogs Allowed but Kashmiris are not allowed,” plastered on its glass windows. The question that rose amongst the rational, logical Indian populace was, “When does Kashmir become an integral part of India, if our young ones are subjected to these heinous acts of violence?”

For the longest time, Kashmir, the crown of India, has been the bone of contention between two domineering nuclear- powers, India and Pakistan. Ever since Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India despite having a major Muslim population, both countries have been at loggerheads, but this unresolved piece of the past and the present is now looking seemingly dangerous for our countries’ shared future.

A more observant and sensitised youth population has become the need of the hour as they are the most gullible, not just in India but in any part of the globe. The increased concern for the young in India is because they are the largest in terms of numbers in the world and their impulsive and emotional responses could affect the developmental trajectory of the Indian diaspora.

At this time, alongside political debates, one extremely important yet neglected concept is the introduction of Conflict and Peace Resolution studies for students right from grade 8. Some educationists have proposed that this should start right from grade 5. Early detection and appropriate intervention during their formative years could stand to benefit the individual and society as a whole. Creating a peace consciousness is inevitable with the open and unlimited access to the internet and the rapid advancement of technology. The unrestricted use of the world wide web has brought with it a series of maladies which if left unresolved, could culminate into a potentially volatile world where the young hit self- destruct.

India has the world’s largest population of youth, and if these warning bells are ignored as sporadic and therefore by extension unimportant, we are inviting trouble. Students must be introduced and conditioned to accept tolerance as a foundational life principle, else what has just happened in Dehradun, could well be the case in other parts of the country. An exploitation of emotional insecurities have consequently led to irreparable damage as we struggle in a fractured society.

Inculcating the spirit of unity and brotherhood, calls for all educationists to press for the urgent and immediate inclusion of Conflict Resolution Studies at all levels. Confrontation as a solution mechanism has been vehemently propagated by a few sections and this can only be countered with timely intercession by both parents and teachers. With the rise in terror attacks globally, it has become quintessential to re- work the basics. India for one, stands on the principles of democracy, secularism and liberty and hence it cannot and should not shy away from incorporating these fundamental values in the education system itself.

The current education system has been successful in creating human machines fuelled by competition, and the overarching principles of value education are rendered redundant by the time the student reaches college. Pupils must be exposed to the effects of violence and terror for them to realise that no act of terror is desirable for sustained global development. This can be done not just through textbooks but interactive sessions with peace-builders, economists and rationalists on a regular basis.

Our young people must be encouraged to take up an internship with Amnesty International or other local organisations that work towards these causes. A sensitized child grows into an empathetic adult. We cannot sow the seeds of disharmony and reap harmony in return. This is a vicious cycle. If we allow the disingenuous methods of a few to overwhelm our narrative, it could be detrimental to the growth of young people and in time we could see the animosity of the forthcoming generations erecting different barriers in terms of religion, custom and/or tradition. We will give rise to islands of isolation and this would breed hatred and the feeling of revenge and discord.

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What we must realise is that our education system must be made responsible for the qualitative growth of students. History has seen a lengthier narrative attributed to war and the causes thereof; the narrative for peace has maintained status quo. Building a young student population that is weaned on the stories of partition and war could lead to the upbringing of extremely hyperactive and intolerant adults. An impartial analysis of history is important especially when it is becoming the basis for an imminent power struggle.

The case for Peace and Conflict Management in schools and colleges, has been long overdue. This is an opportune moment for the new government that will take charge in 2019, to change the course of this system to make it a more inclusive and broad minded one that promotes democratic values and sustainable peace. The focus has to shift from a mark based quantitative system to one where we can instill fundamental values of tolerance, dignity and integrity and not allow the students to undervalue their value education classes to just another free period in school.

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Currently, India has only a handful of notable universities offering the course in peace building. A major reason this subject has not caught up in the country is because a majority of parents have hopped on to the traditional 3  bandwagon which still promotes, engineering, medicine and law. While they are definitely important we must realise that these are not the only choices for our young ones. Most students are unaware that Conflict Resolution courses exist in the country and for those who do dare to try and take it up, they are met with resilience and many times actively discouraged because friends and family believe that there is no scope for such subjects here. Refining our pedagogy could help them to believe the contrary is possible.

The creation of think tanks has been largely limited to major metropolitan cities like Delhi, and hence the lack of exposure and willingness on the part of the parents has added to this dilemma. For our country to contribute to the global fabric and for us to make a significant impact it is quintessential that our young people are given a strong reason and support to work towards formulating strategic solutions for a harmonious future where introspection not infliction of thoughts is key.

Repairing the Conscience of the society so as to ensure that whenever it awakens it elicits emotion based on rational and ethical philosophy could help revive and reform mindsets of even those who have lost their moral inclination in this chaos.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.