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SA must strive to become a peaceful country to the benefit of all society

Education creates an optimal environment for human potential to flourish

With improved prospects of employment and career growth, young people will be more inclined to promote peace says the writer.
With improved prospects of employment and career growth, young people will be more inclined to promote peace says the writer.
Image: Stock photo

The 2022 Global Peace Index has listed SA among the least peaceful countries in the world, ranking it 123rd out of 163 countries.

The report is produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), which measures the relative position of nations and regions’ peacefulness. The most peaceful country in the world, Iceland, had its tranquility shattered by a spate of shootings and stabbings involving criminal gangs. By Icelandic standards, this was concerning as only four people were shot dead in more than two decades. Iceland has topped the GPI rankings since 2008 due to its low crime rate, strong education and welfare systems, fair play and absence of tension between social classes.

This stands in stark contrast to SA, which has witnessed an escalation of violent crimes, making it one of the most dangerous places on earth.

Violent crime in SA includes murder with almost 75 people killed every day. It also has one of the highest rates of rape in the world. Added to that is vehicle hijackings, taxi violence, cash-in-transit heists, farm attacks, kidnapping and gang violence. Recently, the country has seen a spike in incidents of xenophobic violence that have claimed several lives.

For all intents and purposes, SA is a state of low intensity warfare with violent conflict posing the greatest developmental challenge.

In assessing peacefulness the GPI uses indicators such as the number of deaths from external or internal organised conflict, level of perceived criminality in society, number of refugees and displaced people as a percentage of the population, political instability, level of violent crime, likelihood of violent demonstrations and ease of access to small arms and light weapons. In this regard, the country ticks every box, which calls for urgency to overturn this unpalatable state of affairs.

One of the tools for a desirable turnaround is education that can support the transformation of the security situation, political institutions, economic regeneration and social development. Education can contribute to peace, recovery and reconstruction.  For this to happen, what is needed is an education that is inclusive and affordable and that should address inequality and exclusion. Such an education must provide opportunities for previously disadvantaged communities.

The education of former combatants can reduce grievances and support reintegration by giving them skills needed for work. For a country such as ours, education can help in developing new identities and in dealing with apartheid legacies and grievances. This will improve efforts at social cohesion, reconciliation and racial integration.

Education can play a prominent role in promoting peace by boosting confidence and hope among citizens. Confucius attests to this link by stating that “education breeds confidence – confidence breeds hope – hope breeds peace”.

Furthermore, learning promotes independent thinking that can moderate the risk of blind following, which may see young people joining militant groups and vigilantes such as Operation Dudula. Instead, they will be leaders of positive change and action.

The acquisition of problem-solving skills will lead pupils to explore innovative solutions that eschew violence as an alternative. Through better communication skills, more peaceful solutions to conflict can be the norm.

With improved prospects of employment and career growth, young people will be more inclined to promote peace. When people are engaged in productive endeavours, they are less likely to be swayed towards destructive campaigns.

Education can boost poverty alleviation efforts as hunger leads to anger, which produces violence. It is often said that a hungry man is an angry man. With education comes knowledge, power, safety, security and peace.

Education builds empathy and tolerance and this acceptance of others will minimise the likelihood of resorting to violence to solve problems. The classroom setting lends itself to respect for others and this learned respect can be transferred to other areas of pupils’ lives.

Education leads to awareness that can increase political involvement and speaking out against government excesses. More importantly, educated people are less likely to vote for a government that continually fails to fulfil their aspirations. 

It is clear that education is a significant contributor to peace, hence it appears in two of the indicators in the Positive Peace Index. Positive peace can be described as the creation of an optimal environment for human potential to flourish. To this end, education can help to maximise the potential of every citizen and contribute towards a peaceful society.

This can ensure SA climbs up the Global Peace Index ranking to be counted among the most peaceful countries in the world.

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