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India: schools in Jammu and Kashmir lead the way in promoting humanitarian principles

28-08-2009 Feature

Nineteen schools in Jammu and Kashmir have been trialling the "Exploring Humanitarian Law" programme (EHL), aimed at helping young people integrate the principles of humanity into their daily lives. ICRC communication coordinator Stéphanie Bouaziz met some of the creative and dedicated teachers who are finding space in their busy schedules to promote humanitarian values among their pupils.

 

  ©ICRC    
 
  Ranvir Higher Secondary School, Jammu, India. Students in a Jammu School enacting a play on "bystanders" during an EHL class.    
  " I didn’t expect such an encouraging reaction from the children. I was afraid they wouldn’t want to be bothered with an additional subject, but the outcome was so positive that I wish I had a much bigger classroom so I could accept all the children who want to take part!” explains Manmeet Bali, regional EHL trainer for the State. The enthusiastic and sparkly teacher is unstoppable as she explains the impact of the course on her 13 to 18-year-old pupils. “I believe that my role as a teacher is to help pupils make healthy choices for their futures. Choices that can prevent violence and high-risk behaviour. One must always remember that today’s pupils are tomorrow’s adults.”

The programme is also being used in the region’s girls’ schools, where it has been warmly welcomed. EHL meant a lot to Asha (14): " The gam es were enlightening, because we are rarely in a position to discuss the violence we’ve seen or heard about. I especially liked the role playing, because it helped me understand other people’s points of view. What I learnt will not just help me directly; it will also be valuable when I bring up the children I will have one day. "

 
  ©ICRC    
 
  Ranvir Higher Secondary School, Jammu, India. Lively group discussion with the teacher during an EHL class.    
   Viewing conflict from a humanitarian perspective  

The EHL programme promotes humanitarian values in a very specific way, in that teachers let the children express themselves freely via debates, theatre, open discussions, etc.

“I believe that this interactive exercise has a great impact and helps de-stress the children when they discuss conflict situations. There is no room for politics in the classroom, only for humanitarian issues, " explains Mohamed Rafi, former director of school education in Kashmir.

Following the successful pilot programme, Jammu and Kashmir teachers want the EHL programme to cover as many schools as possible, so that it can reach every teenager in every corner of the state. This will be possible if EHL is integrated into the school curriculum and if there are sufficient teachers who have been trained to use the programme.

 Jammu and Kashmir, a pioneer and an example?  

Meenu Raghunathan, ICRC officer in charge of EHL for India, explained that the EHL pilot programme was now in the hands of the ministry of education, which was to consider integrating the programme into the secondary curriculum. Jammu and Kashmir was playing a pioneering role in south Asia, as the programme had never been taught in the region. “Until the authorities can take over complete responsibility for the course, the ICRC will continue to provide technical support and resource materials. Once the programme is implemented, I am convinced that many regions will consider Jammu and Kashmir an example to follow.”