UNESCO and the Ministry of Education train teachers from Ninewa on PVE-E
Adhering to COVID-19 safety measures, UNESCO and the Ministry of Education organized a weeklong workshop that brought together 53 teachers (39 females, 14 males) from 15 schools in Ninewa Governorate. Led by UNESCO-trained master trainers from the General Directorate of Education, Ninewa, the interactive, play-based workshop cultivated teachers’ capacities on Preventing Violent Extremism through Education (PVE-E): from what it is, its context-specific drivers to concrete play-base activities to cultivate resilience against it in their classrooms.
Even though COVID-19 might have reduced the overall incidences of violent extremism due to lockdowns, it has significantly exacerbated the salient drivers – not just the visible economic drivers but overall hopelessness and distrust in participatory institutions, all augmented by a proliferation of conspiracy theories, fake news, racist and divisive rhetoric. Around the world, hate speech, domestic violence, gender-based violence and other pointers of violent extremism have increased. Furthermore, violent extremists appear to be taking advantage of this overall systemic uncertainty to ramp up recruitments online. In fragile contexts like Iraq where communities are yet to heal fully, not only have violent extremists’ activities increased significantly in some parts but COVID has made matters worse in all spheres.
In addition to exacerbating vulnerabilities, COVID-19 has affirmed the need, and also impeded the implementation of projects to build sustainable peace. More than ever, learners, teachers, school principals and parents need more support to cultivate resilience against the lures of violent extremists that are resurfacing. To leave these vulnerable groups now will not only be an impediment to the healing process but also sow the seeds for more violence in the future. It is for this reason that UNESCO and the Ministry of Education organized the weeklong workshop for the training of teachers, despite the COVID-19 challenges.
Empowered by the PVE-E Training of Trainers Refresher Sessions conducted by UNESCO in March 2021, the 5 master trainers from the General Directorate of Education in Ninewa were ready to lead the first round of training activities for 53 teachers nominated from 15 schools around Ninewa by the General Directorate of Education.
The training involved 7 half-day interactive sessions that traversed the whole landscape of PVE-E: from definitions and conceptual clarifications, drivers and manifestations, to concrete case studies and play-based activities that teachers can integrate in their classrooms to cultivate GCED skills such as critical thinking, empathy and resilience.
The first two days provided intensive foundational learning. The trainers took the teachers through a journey of defining, distinguishing and unifying concepts such as, violence, extremism, radical, radicalism, radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism; as well as living together, global citizenship education and other concepts relating to PVE-E. The trainers used case studies and examples from their daily contexts to substantiate this rich exploration. Additionally, the first two days also introduced teachers to various pedagogical approaches and reinforced the importance of play-based learning.
Building on the strong conceptual foundation of the first two days, the remaining five days took teachers through the 10 play-based pedagogical activities that they can implement inside and outside the classroom to cultivate pupils’ skills like critical thinking, empathy, and promote positive values like tolerance, non-violence and co-existence. This was achieved by addressing various themes relating to identity, freedom, equality, tolerance, solidarity, pluralism, intercultural and interreligious dialogue. The last day recapped all the learning such that teachers were able to sieve key messages for classroom integration.
Stepping out of their teaching shoes and into those of their pupils, the teachers enjoyed learning through the play-based activities. Verbal feedback taken directly from the teachers during and after the sessions substantiated written pre and post questionnaires. The pre and post assessments consisted of a Likert scale-based self-assessment of skill, confidence levels and open-ended comments about aspects such as goals and topics of interest. Preliminary results showed that the workshop strengthened the capacities of the teachers with most of them concurring that they were able to define and distinguish various concepts related to PVE-E as well as seamlessly integrate activities to attenuate its salient drivers in their classrooms.
In addition to the unanimous positive feedback, some challenges were discussed. The perennial issues of crowded classrooms and the lack of required tools to aid implementation of such play-based activities reverberated throughout the workshop. There was consensus for each stakeholder to continue to do the best that they can while at the same time push responsible entities in the government, international community and wider civil society to do their parts.
As if preempting the plans of UNESCO in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the teachers recommended similar training activities for more teachers from diverse backgrounds and most importantly, school principals and administrators who need to be brought on board to allow teachers the freedom to integrate such new learnings in their classrooms. As per the recommendations, UNESCO will continue to work with the Ministry of Education and other partners to conduct a similar workshop for school principals from the same 15 schools in forthcoming weeks if COVID-19 and the holy month of Ramadan permit. By the end of the current project funded by the Government of Canada, UNESCO and partners aim to have organized many more similar workshops and strengthened the capacities of close to 10,000 education actors in Ninewa and Anbar.
Social media groups have already been created to take the discussion and learning beyond the physical workshop. UNESCO will monitor the progress of the trained teachers in collaboration with the master trainers and the General Directorate of Education in Ninewa to ensure that the learnings from the workshop are mainstreamed in daily classroom interactions.
UNESCO thanks the Ministry of Education, especially the Directorate of Preparation and Training headed by Dr. Wisal Aldori, the team on the ground at the General Directorate of Education in Ninewa, especially the Department of Preparation and Training headed by Mr. Mohammed Imad Abid Yahya and the excellent master trainers below (from left to right): Mr. Qutaiba Hazim Ahmed, Mr. Ahmed Othman Mohammed; Mr. Othman Fuad Sheet and Mr. Firas Tariq Mohammed Sheet.