Lessons on Wheels: Art as Peace Education for Children Displaced by Armed Conflict in Cameroon.

An estimated three hundred thousand children are being denied the right to education in English speaking Cameroon. Over three hundred have been kidnapped for going to school in defiance of policy by the regime in Cameroon and separatist movements. Accusing fingers have been pointed by both sides on the violation of children’s rights to education, but the situation worsens daily with both party’s incapacity to protect schools and children from violence and the inability to learn. While the regime in Cameroon in its so-called attempt to ensure the status quo of the republic, and the separatists fighters use the education of children and youth to leverage their demands for a negotiated settlement of the civil war in Cameroon, Lessons on Wheels (LOW) has devised another means to ensure that children of school age within the circumference of its reach can play and learn about peace and justice.

The lead for Lessons on Wheels told PNP Magazine that:
“LOW is an effort to guarantee schooling and artistic creativity for children of school age in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon by creating a space for the kids to learn at home and express their thoughts about peace.”

To evaluate the results of the project, we spoke to two beneficiaries of the project, -10year-old Bongfen Laura and -12year-old Ebong Martin who have expressed their idea of peace as a dove carrying an olive branch and the ability to learn. To Laura, peace is being pure of heart as a dove and at the same time having the ability to allow others (the olive branch) to thrive as the colour green represented tolerance and growth for her.

Co-founded in 2016 after the demand for education reforms by teachers and lawyers was crushed by the regime’s rebuttal of social dialogue as a hidden political agenda, that subsequently led to strikes and school boycott, the Lessons on Wheels leadership championed by Mr. Yongka Divine designed an amateur art for peace curriculum to improve peace-thinking skills for children of school age. Aided by video projection displays of local fine art and symbols of peace, music as Mr Leo’s “Ver tah ker a dze nyang” (all we want is peace), with volunteer teachers explaining the meaning to the participants and asking them to design story-based activities about what peace means to them.

Talking to Mr Yongka about this creative idea to travel from locality to locality giving home lessons to children affected by armed conflict, he insisted that the intended aim of LOW’s Project is to “use the Khan Academy and Coursera for refugees online platforms to teach kids the 3Rs (reading, writing and arithmetic), but since we are in the conflict setting it is important to inform the mindsets of kids with peace thinking.” The aim of this armature Curriculum that stands with professionally designed lessons by the Khan Academy and Coursera for refugees and displace persons is to ensure that an entire generation of enthusiastic learners should not be misplaced by armed conflict and the bigotry from government propaganda and separatist movements.

Martin sees his drawing as a form of expression her thoughts and feelings. He describes the colours of his drawing as
“a source of insight into the minds of war lovers and consequence on education for young people his age who are viewed as incapable of independent decision making.”
In spite of the number of challenges as electricity failure and the constant threats from state and non-state armed groups, the co-founders and youth leaders of Books on Wheels are pleased that some children are having fun to learn in a different context (video projection), especially about peace.

Author: Ayenka Franklin

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