Zuza ithemba! - hope for lasting peace through sustainable peace education in Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal.
This study aims to undertake a thematic investigation of core issues and concerns around peace, conflict and security for residents of three municipal wards of Richmond, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. I provide a contextual analysis of the socio-economic and political circumstances prevailing in 3 municipal wards of Richmond, suggest core contextual issues to consider when designing a sustainable peace education programme for Richmond and finally, reflect on my application of Freirean methodologies in the study. While collecting the data I was project manager of a UKZN peace education programme in Richmond and my research participants were either directly involved in the programme, or peripherally, as NGO workers in complementary peace projects in the area. Data was gathered from minutes of project meetings, structured interviews, and collegial reflections on the project work, but predominantly from informal face-to-face, telephonic and email dialogues with participants during the course of regular project work. Both the theoretical and methodological approaches I adopt for this action research study are centrally framed by a Freirean pedagogy which emphasizes authentic dialogue, praxis, problem-solving education, the importance of social and personal transformation, collaborative inquiry and the production of knowledge that is collectively owned and shared. My findings, which I present in the form of discussions around the generative themes which emerged from the data, largely corroborate my documentary analysis of the context. Historical violence issues such as “unfinished business”, police and military complicity in the political violence, and the proliferation of weapons emerge as powerful generative themes, while displacement of people and families, trauma and fractured families (which also stem from the history of violence), emerge as serious current social challenges to peace and stability. Substance abuse and prostitution, poverty and unemployment, and lack of development also feature strongly as generative themes. One of the key findings of this study is the extent to which political partisanship, power struggles and patronage hamper the implementation of peace and development initiatives. While I suggest some specific contextual issues which need to be considered when designing an holistic peace education programme for Richmond, I recommend that significant stakeholders (including affected communities and their leaders, the university, various NGOs, religious groupings, organs of state, and traditional healers) unify and direct their respective capacities towards a common goal of peace and reconciliation in order to address these issues: creating a culture of healing through jointly organizing cultural events and peace rallies, helping to establish and support Peace Committees, training people in non-violent conflict resolution skills, providing counseling for survivors of political and domestic violence, supporting fractured and vulnerable families, providing better recreational spaces and job opportunities for the youth. Each of these initiatives would furthermore provide a useful opportunity for non-formal peace education. In addition, I suggest the university could partner with the provincial Department of Education to explore ways of integrating peace education throughout existing school curricula, and the establishment of learner peace clubs where learners could form peace committees to provide in-school peer mediation services. I conclude by reflecting on my application of Freirean methodologies. While I lament my failure to apprehend the extent to which my privileged background and my position as a member of the elite class prevented me from experiencing authentic dialogue with my primary participants, and how I consistently missed opportunities to dialogue and employ core Freirean pedagogical techniques such as problem-posing, and how I failed to get to the point of “re-presenting” to participants the generative themes as problems, and coinvestigating solutions to these problems, I manage to end on an optimistic note by recognizing the significance of the personal transformative learning I gained from the experience.