Teaching about genocide and mass atrocities: An entry point to peace education
In the framework of its activities relating to education about the Holocaust and other genocides, UNESCO partnered with the National Commission of Senegal to UNESCO to organize a training seminar for high-level civil servants of the Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, the Gambia, Mali, Niger and Senegal ministries of education in Dakar on 24 and 25 November 2016. The seminar was preceded by a conference on the same topic at Université Cheikh Anta Diop de Dakar (UCAD) on 23 November 2016 to raise awareness among the Senegalese academic community.
“For seven decades following the Holocaust, many individuals and organizations have been constantly campaigning for ‘NEVER AGAIN.’ But these efforts remain insufficient, since other genocides have taken place since the Holocaust – even as recently as 1994 – and large-scale violations of human rights still occur today,” said Mr. Gwang-Chol Chang, Director a.i. of UNESCO Dakar. “It is clear that preventive actions must be strengthened, and in particular by promoting the defence of peace in the minds of men and women, as proclaimed by UNESCO’s Constitution.”
Thus, education has a vital role to play to build resilience to violence and to contribute to a culture of peace based on mutual respect and human rights. It is for this reason that UNESCO supports education on the history of past genocides as a means to raise awareness of the causes, dynamics and consequences of such atrocities.
The seminar therefore was an opportunity for the participants to familiarize themselves with the concept and history of genocide, in particular the genocide of the Jewish people during the Second World War and that of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994. The seminar also included round table discussions such as “Why teach about the Holocaust?” which examined the experiences of Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal, and South Africa; “racism, anti-Semitism, and denial”, led by three experts from different perspectives; and “the prevention of violent extremism through education”, which presented UNESCO’s new guidelines for policymakers and teachers as well as experiences from the West African region, considering critical contextual issues such as the role of the security system, the family and the media. These discussions were developed around in-depth analyses on pedagogies and policies relating to this history, and helped participants to explore possible ways to introduce or reinforce the position of the subject in education in a way which is relevant to their national contexts.
As a concrete follow-up action, participants were requested to share their roadmap to integrate this subject in their education policies, programmes, and curriculum and to propose an effective monitoring system appropriate for their respective countries’ context. This aims in the short-term at 2017, in the medium-term in alignment with the national education sector plan, and in the long-term at contributing to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 Education 2030 and specifically Target 4.7: to promote a culture of peace and non-violence.
Experts contributing to the seminar included historians and educators from Belgium, Côte d'Ivoire, France, Germany, Senegal and South Africa.
The event was organized in partnership with the Shoah Memorial, the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, with the support of the Foundation for the Memory of the Shoah.
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