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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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Deputy principal works toward peace education in Durban schools

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Pranesh Jugganath (second from left), deputy principal of Avoca Secondary School, stands with teachers and students at the school, where he hopes to introduce peace education into the curriculum. PHOTO: KATIE ROSTA ’22/THE HAWK

Durban, South Africa — For almost a year now, Pranesh Jugganath has been pondering what he can do to combat the violence and anger that derives from economic hardship, high youth unemployment rates and enduring social injustice in the communities around Avoca Secondary School, where he works as deputy principal.

Located in Durban, Avoca Secondary School admits students from surrounding townships where people struggle with lack of access to basic educational resources, health care and adequate housing. High levels of violence in some of these communities also create self-esteem challenges among his students, Jugganath said. 

As a founding member of the South African Peace Education Network (SAPEN), Jugganath said one solution is implementing a program into Durban schools’ curriculum called peace education, a practice that dates back many years. It is a concept used to help individuals recognize and utilize skills and behaviors to manage conflict in a positive manner. A long-term goal for peace education programs are nonviolent resolutions for issues such as social injustices.

“Schools are the best place to equip young minds with the skills, knowledge and attitudes,” Jugganath said. “That is the best platform to train our future leaders.”

Linda Johnston, Ph.D., president of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA), said her foundation provides grants to researchers or groups whose research projects focus on peace and on peace education.

“It takes a community to truly instill peace education in the lives of youth,” Johnston said. “Peace education should be embedded in all facets of an educational curriculum, instead of a singular class.”

That is exactly what Jugganath intends to do. Jugganath said he is using the concept of peace education developed by The Prem Rawat Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Los Angeles, to guide his own ideas for incorporating peace education at schools, including Avoca Secondary.

“It is to live in harmony with oneself and nature,” said Jugganath, who refers to himself as a peace ambassador. “If I might quote Prem Rawat, he says that ‘peace starts with yourself first, before you preach to somebody else.’ If you are not at peace with yourself, don’t use it as a tick box.”

Social injustices will lead to conflict. If we’re not cohesive, we’re not going to be at peace with each other.

Pranesh Jugganath, DEPUTY PRINCIPAL, AVOCA SECONDARY SCHOOL

Last August Jugganath and some community members created an official proposal to share with South Africa’s Department of Education, which he hopes to deliver in August. His plan is to ensure students are prepared to lead their communities toward a brighter future with the hope of bettering their lives.

Jugganath said the first step is getting students to think positively. 

“That’s right at the beginning when we speak about what peace education is,” Jugganath said.

Among other components of Jugganath’s plan are a peace pledge for each student to take, self-esteem surveys with therapeutic programs in response to students with low self-esteem, school assemblies to spark discussions, amicable debates on social justice issues, plus a lot of positive reinforcements for students.

Jugganath said as economic hardship, social injustice and violence become more prevalent within students’ communities and everyday lives, youth become more aggrieved with themselves and their communities, which makes his peace education program plan all the more necessary.

“Human rights, social justice and cohesion, these are things we need to promote in schools so that peace will prevail,” Jugganath said. “Social injustices will lead to conflict. If we’re not cohesive, we’re not going to be at peace with each other.”

Jugganath said schools also need to teach their students how to resolve conflict through mediation and dialogue to avoid misunderstandings.

“When you level them out, they understand what the other person is saying and you clear that misunderstanding,” Jugganath said. “But you need that skill now to mediate between the two. Otherwise, they take it outside school, and a simple misunderstanding becomes, number one, your violent response.”

Jugganath said teachers are already spending their time mediating disputes in classes, and for peace education to work, instructors need to engage in more conflict resolution. 

I try to show them that there is hope, and there is a better life for you. But you got to work towards it.

Charmaine Raghunandan, EDUCATOR, AVOCA PRIMARY SCHOOL

Avoca 11th grader Asanda Mchunu said trusting teachers to be able to help is key.

“It’s important for us to have a relationship with our teachers because some of our teachers always remind us that if we have a problem, we have to talk to them. We shouldn’t escape,” Mchunu said.

Charmaine Raghunandan, an educator for 20 years at Avoca, said her approach is to understand the situations of her students and their families and, if possible, to assist them so they know she cares.

“I try to show them that there is hope, and there is a better life for you,” Raghunandan said. “But you got to work towards it.”

Malibongwe Gasa, an educator who teaches isiZulu language at Avoca, said current teachers need to move away from the way teachers used to discipline students during his time in school. Gasa said instead of using physical punishment, educators must sit down and reason with their students for a safe and peaceful environment. 

“People from their communities, they treat them not like children. They treat them like [someone who] takes drugs or is violent,” Gasa said. “So when they come here, as educators, now we need to comfort them, we need to understand where they come from and give them the space of safety.”

Jugganath is hopeful that his plan, which, he said, is a process and not an event, will aid students in finding peace within themselves.

“You need to reinforce peace education every day,” Jugganath said. “You can’t say I did peace education in January. You got to be at it because it’s the demon that’s sitting on your shoulder, the minute you relax, that demon is going to take over, so your peace education has to be continuous.”

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