Malaysia: Preparing future educators for teaching humanitarian law

On 15 and 16 November 2018, 27 students from the Faculty of Education at University of Malaya (UM) participated in a workshop on humanitarian principles and law. As future teachers, they wanted to prepare themselves for the task of teaching 15-year-olds about international humanitarian law as per the national curriculum's requirements.

The goal was to help participants deepen their knowledge of humanitarian law and incorporate humanitarian principles into their daily lives.

The student teachers prepared for the task ahead by participating in six interactive sessions that were based on Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) – a resource pack for teachers to introduce students aged 13 to 18 to the basic rules of humanitarian law.

Student teachers craft their own EHL teaching sessions based on tools they learn in the workshop. CC BY-NC-ND / Yu-Lyn QUEK / ICRC

Combining photos and videos from real-life conflict situations and case studies with interactive methods such as brainstorming and group discussions, the workshop's facilitator encouraged participants to consider the ethical and humanitarian issues that emerge during times of conflict.

The participants also got to put their new knowledge into practice by coming up with their own exploratory teaching modules. They facilitated sessions on various topics including child soldiers, the use of weapons that cause indiscriminate damage and the protection of humanitarian workers.

These sessions not only helped the participants understand the material they will be teaching but also helped them develop basic skills such as teambuilding, presentation and public speaking. More importantly, the future teachers emerged with an interest in current events and the capacity to view conflicts from a humanitarian perspective.

Many participants said they had no previous knowledge of humanitarian law. Attending this workshop opened their eyes to the devastation and suffering that occur during conflict and enabled a deeper understanding of issues that seem far removed from Malaysia.

Student teachers tell fellow participants about their own imaginary humanitarian organization which would advocate for the rights of former child soldiers. CC BY-NC-ND / Yu-Lyn QUEK / ICRC

Workshops like these aim to help young people learn about the basic tenets of humanitarian law – the need to alleviate human suffering and limit the effects of armed conflict through rules that clearly demarcate military and civilian targets, banning weapons which cause prolonged suffering and ensuring the rights of prisoners of war.