‘Developing an understanding of peace’

Niazmohammad Puya (35), Director of the Basic Education Programme for Afghanistan (BEPA) in Badakhshan Province, on progress and challenges in Afghanistan.

Niazmohammad Puya

What progress do you think has been made in improving teaching quality in Afghanistan?
Since my time as a student more than ten years ago, the overall quality of teaching has improved considerably in many education institutions in Afghanistan thanks to broad-based training for teachers. Teacher-centred lessons have given way to a greater emphasis on practical aspects. Student-centred teaching using a variety of methods takes time. That is why the government is insisting on quality in teaching curricula. Teaching manuals provide teachers with practical assistance in designing their lessons. Based on current developments, I think we will have more evolved school curricula in five to ten years. In the provinces in which BEPA is operating, we have seen clear improvements in the teaching style of those who have taken part in the workshops.

With support from GIZ, peace education has now been included as a subject in the teacher training curriculum. What is the idea here?
I remember primary school textbooks that were used to help children learn to read with sentences such as ‘Ahmad has got a machine gun’. We grew up surrounded by war; it became a habit. That’s why it’s extremely important to use modern textbooks as a way of countering this. Peace education looks at questions such as ‘What form might peace take and what would our lives be like?’. If teachers develop an understanding of peace, a whole generation of Afghan children will soon be learning about peace. I am optimistic that sooner or later this will change people’s mentality. After all, I think extremism is partly due to a lack of education, for example if the Taliban set fire to schools in the country. Otherwise how could people who have learned to love their country do something like that?

Gender and human rights are another priority area. How exactly is the subject being taught?
Gender and human rights are addressing in an elective training module in which trainee teachers learn how important it is to give men and women equal career opportunities. Afghanistan has a long way to go here. However, there has been gradual progress. For example, the current head of the teacher training college in Faizabad is a woman. That would have been unthinkable a few years ago.

February 2020