By Taye Obateru
The recurring crisis in Plateau State which has spanned over a decade has no doubt drawn negative attention to the once peaceful state in recent times. Several workshops, seminars and dialogue sessions have been held to seek an end to the problem and chart a way forward.
Different stake holders are often brought together at such fora to discuss how the crisis can be brought to an end, but minors who are usually considered too young to understand such issues are rarely given opportunity to participate. The natural reaction if anyone suggested it would be: “What do they know?”
The importance of not neglecting children on such issues came to the fore in the Plateau State capital recently when children showed that they not only understand issues related to crisis but that they are also hard hit by it.
Pupils from public primary schools in Jos North Local Government Area at a forum organised by the Centre for the Advocacy of Justice and Rights, CAJR, in collaboration with the local government’s education authority argued that the crisis was adversely affecting them and their education.
The programme which had the theme: “Enhancing Knowledge and Integrating Primary School Pupils into the Peace Building Process in Plateau State”, brought together pupils from 43 different primary schools, teachers and other stakeholders with representatives of different schools making their presentations.
Making a presentation on “The Negative Effects of Crisis on Primary Education”, a pupil of Methodist Primary School, Miss Peace Tella listed the negative effects of constant crisis, especially how it affects education in the state. According to her: “When crises break out, teaching and learning stop and pupils and teachers are sometimes killed in the violence.
Within the period of crises, the school session is stopped and this makes it difficult for the syllabus to be covered. Teachers are afraid of going to some areas to teach, while in other places, pupils are withdrawn from schools due to displacement of parents and fear of insecurity”.
She argued that crisis create unfriendly atmosphere between pupils and pupils, pupils and teachers and even among teachers themselves apart from impacting negatively on business transactions, thereby making things difficult for parents to meet the educational needs of their children and wards.
In another presentation which dwelt on “The Role of Primary School Pupils in Peace Building”, Master Samuel Adio from Township Primary School, argued that contrary to the perception that children had little to contribute to the peace process, they could also serve as peace agents.
He listed healthy relationship, sharing, participation in school functions and competitions, among others, as ways of promoting peaceful coexistence among school pupils. He urged stakeholders to see themselves as partners in progress towards ensuring peaceful coexistence and challenged all present to go out and be true peace builders, preaching it willingly and forging avenues for genuine reconciliation.
Giving the rationale for bringing the pupils together, Director of CAJR , Mr. Gad Peter said: “We wish to use this opportunity to draw the attention of government, parents, religious leaders, politicians and other stakeholders to the importance of peace, the negative effects of crisis on education and the need to involve primary school pupils in finding lasting solution to the Plateau crises.
“This is so because children are the future of the society and we cannot have meaningful peace and development without the involvement of children in the peace-building process because every violent action affects them one way or the other. It is common to note that the future leaders of society are hardly involved in the peace building processes and so their concerns, fears and needs are not looked upon by the various stakeholders”.
He regretted that the over a decade crises had affected relationships, trust, mutual respect, societal values, quality of education, adding: “We are gradually producing a generation of children that know nothing about peaceful co-existence, value for human life, respect for law and order.
This clearly explains why in the current efforts for the search for peace in the state, children must be involved to prevent a situation where a generation of people will know nothing but violence and will accept it as a normal way of life”.
Also contributing, Education Secretary of Jos North Local Government Area, Mrs. Chundung Shom commended CAJR’s initiative of bringing school pupils together to contribute their quota to the peace building process in the state.
She said the forum would afford the pupils, teachers and officials of Jos North Local Government Area and others in attendance opportunity to add their voices to those of other Nigerians in the quest for peaceful harmony and co-existence in the state. She urged citizens to see themselves as agents of peace and work for it as according to her, without peace, there would be no teaching and learning.
Other stakeholders who spoke lamented the negative effect of the protracted crises which they agreed had almost crippled public primary education. Pupils in attendance expressed delight that they had an opportunity to bare their minds on the crises and thanked the organisers for the gesture.