Taking responsibility to build cultures of peace to prevent new wars and build peaceful schools and communities in secondary schools and local communities
PEGC is a collaborative initiative, our innovative response to the devastating horrors of the twenty-year war in Northern Uganda that killed, mutilated, tortured, raped, and abducted hundreds of thousands of us. This same war displaced two million of us from our ancestral villages to squalid, overcrowded displacement camps where more of us died from disease. We are still recovering from the effects of this war. It is unthinkable that this should ever happen again, not to us, not to any Ugandan, not to anyone anywhere.
New wars are unthinkable because we look at war through the eyes of women and children. Through the eyes of families and communities. We look at war through our own experiences.
Unthinkable, however, is not enough. Unthinkable has to be translated into effective initiatives that actually prevent new wars and at the same time are systemic, sustainable, measurable, and have strong potential to replicate.
The Face of War
IDP camp, Northern Uganda, 2004
The Face of Peace
UMECS PEGC peace debate, 2010
Wars and armed conflict have plagued not only millions of Ugandans but tens of millions of our neighbours in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Sudan and South Sudan and Burundi. So we take responsibility to build cultures of peace to prevent new wars.
If we who are affected by conflict do not build cultures of peace to prevent new wars, who will?
What is PEGC
PEGC is a secondary-school and community-based programme in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports that:
- Builds cultures of peace to prevent new wars
- Builds peaceful schools and communities
- Personally develops youth through life skills and counseling
- Mediates community conflicts
- Builds peace, relationship and reconciliation within and between groups
There have been multiple wars in Uganda since Independence. Preventing new wars and recurring cycles of revenge can no longer be left to chance. Wars must be intentionally prevented because once wars start, they rage out of control like forest fires. To prevent new wars, communities and the entire society must build cultures of lasting peace in which people co-exist and want to co-exist in harmony. This requires systemic strategies and long term commitment.
Central to the ability of secondary school students to be successful academically, develop socially and emotionally, serve as leaders and catalysts for change and focus on higher education and career goals is their personal development. This program personally develops secondary school students by combining peace education and peace activities with life skills, training and counseling.
In 2009, in a highly competitive process, UMECS won a USAID/Uganda grant to pilot Peace Education and Guidance and Counseling in Secondary School in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports.
The project was piloted in 2010 in seven secondary schools in Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum and Pader districts in Northern Uganda with groundbreaking results, structural impact and transformative experiences. The program is now in Year 4. The overarching goal: to mainstream the program throughout Uganda’s secondary school and teacher training systems.
In 2011, World Vision International selected UMECS as a Finalist in its Peacebuilding Prize, recognizing UMECS “outstanding achievements in the field of peacebuilding” for the impact of the PEGC program.
Why Secondary-School Based
In order to have growing and sustainable impact, PEGC needed to be institutionalized, situated in a systemic setting in which students and youth participate in a programme that can scale up and mainstream countrywide into the secondary school and teacher training systems. A programme that serves over 3,000 students today will serve several million students over time as the programme scales and mainstreams.
Secondary school is where students transition from adolescents to young adults. Secondary school students are establishing their values, finding their moral compass. They have influence with their peers, families and communities and want to change the world. Depending on their secondary school programmes, students will be immersed in PEGC from 4 – 6 years, helping them to become personally developed school and community leaders, peer counselors and mediators, peer educators and lifelong peacebuilding practitioners.
Goals and Objectives
- Build cultures of peace to prevent new wars
- Build peaceful schools and communities
- Improve the quality of secondary school education
- Create lifelong peacebuilding practitioners dedicated to lifelong roles as community peace actors
- Personally develop secondary school students as evidenced by
- Social and emotional development (social skills, maturity)
- Improved decision making and problem solving skills
- Student leadership, determination and self-discipline
- Activation of empathy and being open, self-aware, assertive
- Improved confidence and self-esteem
- Improved communication skills
- Improved academic performance
- Developing career goals
- Improved student-teacher and student peer relationships
- Creation of serious-minded students focused on career, tertiary education, financial independence, achievements, peacebuilding, family support and community development
- Community integration through community counseling and mediations
Overarching goal: To mainstream the programme countrywide throughout the secondary school and teacher training systems.
- Peace Education Classes (conflict resolution, conflict transformation et al)
- Student Peace Activities (peace drama, debate, poetry, presentations, music, songs and dance)
- Guidance/Life Skills (problem solving, decision making, relationships et al)
- Psychosocial counseling (group and individual)
- Peer mediation and peer counseling training
- Inter and intra-school peace activity events
- Community integration: community and family counseling
- Community Mediations – Alternative Dispute Resolution and Conflict Transformation – land, oil, family and village disputes
- Over 3,000 secondary school students participate
- 94 teachers and school staff certificate level trained as peace educators and guidance counselors
- Students trained as peer mediators and peer counselors
- Eradication of bullying
- Increased student openness, self-awareness, assertiveness and activation of empathy
- Improved student confidence, communication skills and self esteem
- Student leadership development
- Improved academic performance and reduced student indiscipline
- Personal, social and emotional development of students
- Improved self-discipline, determination and career and higher education focus
- Transition from punitive to restorative justice methodologies
- Extensive healing of students from war and family-related trauma
- Creation of an ethos of non-violence at each school
- Improved student-teacher and student-peer relationships
- Student mandate and responsibility to create cultures of peace at school, in their communities and with their families
- Teacher empowerment and ownership in facilitating these transformations
- Successful community mediations and community and family counseling
What our school partners say
“The changes that took place at our school, and in our local communities, exceeded our expectations. Student indiscipline greatly reduced while academic performance improved. Another important change is the greatly improved relationship with our local communities. This is not just a school-based program. We integrated our programs into the community. Community members now come to our school for counseling. Our trained teachers go into the community and help community members resolve disputes.”
Obonyo Patrick (Rev), Head Teacher, Lira Palwo Senior Secondary School, Pader, 24 Feb 2012
“This is a program that has made a positive difference at our school. This program helped to eradicate bullying and greatly reduced the cases of student indiscipline. These factors have helped to build a peaceful environment at Sir Samuel Baker School, conducive to the serious pursuit of study.”
Lacere Churchill Olanya, Head Teacher, Sir Samuel Baker School, 24 February 2012
“This is a program that needs to be scaled up and mainstreamed countrywide. One of UMECS many strong features is that they develop and implement programs contextually. Just as UMECS implemented this program successfully in post-conflict Acholiland, they have the skills and capacity to implement this program successfully in other cultural and contextual settings.”
Abwola Moro James, Head Teacher, Gulu College(secondary school), 23 February 2012
“Through peace education classes, student-centered peace activities, guidance courses and psychosocial counseling, this program has brought about exceptional change amongst our students and teachers demonstrated through improved academic performance, reduced student indiscipline, eradication of bullying and greatly improved student-teacher relationships.
Sr. Susan Clare Ndeezo, Head Teacher, Sacred Heart Secondary School, Gulu, 24 Feb 2012
“Peace Education and Guidance and Counseling is making a momentous difference at our school and neighboring communities and has brought about great improvement in many realms. This is a program that is needed in many schools and communities and was needed at Pabo Senior Secondary School, situated in Amuru district in post-conflict Northern Uganda….The program deeply engages our students. Our students, equipped with peer counseling and peer mediation skills are having a positive impact with their families and peers in the community.”
Otim Walter Knox, Head Teacher, Pabo Senior Secondary School, Amuru, 24 February 2012
What government and support partners say
“UMECS is an organization in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Sports…..UMECS implemented Peace Education and Guidance & Counseling in Secondary Schools in Northern Uganda at seven secondary schools in four districts…..Our overarching goal is to mainstream the program in the secondary school and teacher training systems….. “UMECS is not only of significance in supporting the Ministry to achieve some of its broad goals but also highly regarded by the schools and institutions they serve and support for their transparent and collaborative mode of operation.”
W.G. Opiro, For Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Education and Sports, 21 February 2012
“This program has changed the lives of thousands of students traumatized by the recently ended conflict in Northern Uganda and is building an environment of peace and non-violence at all seven schools. We are moved and encouraged by the depth and speed of the results….Our decision to select UMECS among a stiff competition of candidates has been fully validated by their groundbreaking implementation of the program and strict compliance with USAID activity and financial reporting requirements.”
Jessica Huber, Director, Peace and Justice Programs, USAID-Uganda/SPRING 27 Sept 2010
What PEGC Youth Say
Excerpts from PEGC YouthVoice writers:
Nokrach Emmanuel, student, Gulu High School, Senior 4
I am participating in peace education especially in the peace drama, peace debate, in guidance and counseling and support groups and have actively participated in all of them at my school.
As a result of participating in PEGC I experienced many personal changes. For instance, my behavior changed positively and I stopped bullying people. I started visiting teachers for counseling and guidance. After being counseled I started making good decision in life. My academic performance has also improved since I started listening to the counselors. The training and support I got also changed my life and it is still changing my life.
The PEGC program results in people changing positively because the people are guided and counseled and people understand it properly leading to positive change in people.
I learned about confronting problems, solving issues and using coping skills. After learning these skills I participated in counseling and guiding my fellow students and even at home during holidays. I am an advocate for peacebuilding at school and in my community.
Since PEGC program was introduced in this school the academic performance increased by a good number of percentages and I am proud of that. I think the reason why is because of the stable mind which PEGC is now bringing. The mind that had been destroyed by the war in Northern Uganda in now stable.
Peace education cannot go without guidance and counseling because peace education acts as a peace promoter and the guidance and counseling comes after the conflicting parties have come together as one. Both parts of the program are needed together.
I also realize that the program has helped to improve my verbal and writing skills and it has opened my mind to think about the past and the future. My confidence level has increased and I have many new interests. I am now a problem solver and have become a role model.
Peace creates love and respect. It also creates good security among the people (no war). Peace also improves our culture due to staying in our original land (in the village). In a place where peace exists, there is much unity among the people and due to unity, the people end up cooperating in the societies.
PEGC has changed me in the most positive ways.
Charles Okwera, student, Kitgum Alliance College (secondary school), Senior 6
During the war time, we use to live like animals because of sleeping in the bush fearing the rebels and we could eat only once a day. All of us hated the war situation and demanded for peace to come back.
I have participated in PEGC counseling. I learned that when something goes wrong among two people they should learn how to solve the problem among themselves. This participation opened my eyes on how to solve problems among two individuals. I also learned to set goals and work hard toward the achievement of these goals.
PEGC has helped in the reduction of violence and helped students become social with each other and to be peaceful. The program has led to creating discussion groups, making both class and personal time tables and setting goals. These new skills and activities have led to improvement in academic performance of individual students and the whole school.
The peace debates, peace poems, peace articles, and peace drama activities have opened the minds of students and many have improved their spoken English. Others have become good writers, and still others have identified their talents for future careers
PE and GC go hand in hand. If it is separated, it will not be effective because people will be having peace but not know how to set goals, choose peers and develop talents which are greatly emphasized in counseling and guidance. So the program has to work together so that it realizes its successes.
My goal is to study hard, reach the university and become a teacher. I set that goal because I want the youth in my community to realize the benefits of education and I want to teach children so that they start loving education. My main interest is to be a good example to the young ones so they realize that difficulties are part of life. In life, one has to come through problems. We have to persevere and break through the hard rock of many challenges.
Irene Acan, student, Gulu High School, Senior 4
I participate in peace education classes and guidance and counseling. The activities I participate in are peace drama, peace debate, writing peace songs and one to one counseling. One drama we performed was on how to live with peace in the community.
I have experienced personal transformation, personal changes I would like to share. I have experience changes in my performance. Before I joined PEGC, my performance was poor and I was stubborn. PEGC helped me to improve by giving me advice on what to do in order to develop my academic talents. My academic performance has greatly improved compared to when I was not yet engaged in PEGC activities. I have also experienced changes in my attitude toward others
I have seen changes in many students and my own peers who participated in PEGC program such as changes in students’ behaviour. I used to disturb other students and I was so much hated for that so when I got enough information and counseling from the trained teachers I changed my behaviour for the better. I now have respect for other student, teachers, school administrators, my own parents and the community at large.
One of our class mates was so traumatized because he was abducted by the LRA rebels. One time he was forced to kill an innocent woman. After staying in the bush with the rebels for several years, he managed to escape and came back home but the trauma disturbed him so much that he cannot concentrate in class. He always liked staying alone and his performance was terrible because he could not pass any subject. All the time he was thinking about that woman whom he had been forced to kill. He was advised to join PEGC activities where he was counseled and guided. Now he is one of the happiest around. He has become friendly to students, lovely, kind, and his performance has improved. He is one of the most active students in PEGC activities in the school.
The programme has helped to reduce violence because students have learned how to practice nonviolence and how to solve problems by themselves in a peaceful way. Student use to take their friend’s property without asking but now students have learned how to ask for things politely with love and many have also learned how to share things among themselves. The program also helps students develop talents and how to make good friends.
PEGC has helped to improve my verbal skills, writing skills and reading skills. I have also developed my confidence levels, self-esteem and improved my leadership skills.
What PEGC Teachers Say
Josephine Okongo, teacher and PEGC trained peace educator at Sir Samuel Baker School
Before PEGC came to our school, students cherished their culture of violence and there was a conspiracy of silence that made it hard for teachers to find the perpetrators of violence. The younger students were bullied and lived in constant fear. It was difficult for younger students to report any cases of bullying to avoid being targeted. This created a cycle of violence that was little known by the teachers.
My training as a peace educator in 2009 touched my soul and transformed me into a different person. I now handle my students with a lot of empathy. PEGC program covers thematic areas like peace, conflict resolution, resource utilization, gender roles, and human rights. The training improved my classroom skills and the learning environment. We have been able to motivate the learners to apply peace concepts taught in class into their daily lives. The results are amazing: There is now good relationship between teachers and students and the students have gained confidence and trust in their teachers. Bullying is eradicated. Peer educators and counselors are trained. Sir Samuel Baker School has become a model school in Northern Uganda. The impact of peace education has been enormous. Our students have improved academically and the school has also won two trophies for being the most disciplined school.
Until my PEGC training by UMECS, I had not realized that peace was two dimensional i.e. personal and inter personal. If there is no peace within a person then it would be a nightmare to teach peace. Peace within a teacher and among the teaching staff is paramount. Otherwise it becomes very difficult to extend peace to the students. A display of humility, insight, patience and love are necessary for a teacher of peace to execute his/her duties effectively especially dealing with youth affected by conflict such as the ones we teach in Northern Uganda.
When you value peace, you become an asset to your community for your peaceful gestures will turn hearts of many and thus change lives that would be lost in conflict. I have become more composed and hardworking to ensure I talk and practice peace every day of my life. My family relationship has also changed because of the peace training. My improved teaching skills have benefited many students who come back to say thank you and you feel wow! I have made a contribution and changed someone’s life. I love to see them do better in life and have influence on their communities.
I acknowledge and appreciate the contribution and support of my fellow teachers with whom we have trained in PEGC at all the seven schools. UMECS gave us the opportunity and we doing our part.
Michael Obote Obwoya, teacher and PEGC trained guidance counselor at Gulu High School
Prior to PEGC, there was a very big gap between the students and the teachers and other members of the community. The level of indiscipline was very high. There was no reading culture. The level of bullying was alarming. In summary, the students did not have a purpose in life. Some of the teachers would even handle the students in a disproportionate manner; hence, no rapport. The level of student drop-out was even so high, especially the girl child. Students lacked self-esteem and assertiveness. All these changed when the teachers received training in PE/GC.
I received a certificate in Guidance and Counseling from Makerere University Institute of Adult and Continuing Education facilitated by UMECS and later participated in curriculum development for GC. I coordinate GC activities in the school. Peace education is expressed through music, dance and drama.
We have witnessed a lot of dramatic changes in the students since the inception of PE/GC. The students’ self-esteem has improved, they have become more assertive, the teacher-student relationship has greatly improved, the rate of drop-out has reduced considerably, the needy or vulnerable have been able to come out openly, the students initiated a reading culture by resolving preps should be compulsory and the trained teachers have been offering a lot of mentorship services to the learners. These changes I believe occurred as a result of PE/GC that the students were able to embrace.
“World Vision International is pleased to acknowledge UMECS as a finalist for 2011 Peacebuilding Prize in recognition of your outstanding achievements in the field of peacebuilding.”
Kevin J. Jenkins, President and Chief Executive Officer and Matthew J.O. Scott, Director, Peacebuilding, World Vision International
“UMECS plays a vital role in ending the orgy of war and violence.”
Dr. Bernard Lown, 1985 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, co-Founder, International Physicians to Prevent Nuclear War
Future Programme Stages
Community Peace Actors
We are developing a community-based programme, Community Peace Actors, which will partner and collaborate with PEGC. Community Peace Actors is a people to people approach designed to enhance the capacity of local actors to transform and mitigate conflict, transform and mediate disputes, acquire practice-based skills in reconciliation and relationship building, train groups in various traditions of peacebuilding and reconciliation and help youth become lifelong peacebuilding practitioners.
Peace Education Center
UMECS will construct its planned Peace Education Center on UMECS land in the Bardege division of Gulu municipality, a center that will serve PEGC peace educators, guidance counselors and students. Our Center will include a conference center, space for trainings, workshops, seminars and events, and research and publishing capacity. In addition to its role with PEGC and Community Peace Actors, the Center will serve as a resource center for local, regional and international scholars and practitioners. Read more about UMECS Peace Education Center
PEGC partner schools and communities will conduct sub-regional and countrywide peace tours to build and restore relationships, reconcile and collaborate on peacebuilding, scaling PEGC and related activities.
Scale throughout Greater Northern Uganda
PEGC will scale throughout Greater Northern Uganda, in Karamoja, Teso, Lango, West Nile and further into Acholiland.
In the fullness of time, PEGC will mainstream countrywide in the secondary school and teacher training systems, an overarching joint goal of UMECS and the Ministry of Education and Sports.
Our vision is for PEGC to replicate regionally, starting in South Sudan. We are in dialogue with a group in South Sudan about familiarizing the programme there.