by Oghenechovwen Oghenekevwe.
“Let us pick up our books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons.” – Malala Yousafzai; youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.
During the lead-up to the 2017 Commonwealth Day, I was worried by a visual memory. It was an old and ugly graffiti painted on the wall of my school’s tuck shop then in Warri, Nigeria. It expressed an underlying social and political message, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Years later, the unknown student artist’s message is relevant in today’s turbulent world and the Commonwealth theme for the year, “A Peace-building Commonwealth.”
To celebrate the Commonwealth’s tangible commitment in peace-building, secondary school students and undergraduates came together for “Akure #Commonwealth4Peace Exchange” at the Federal University of Technology Akure Staff Secondary School. Diversity, sustainable development, knowledge-seeking, informal experience sharing, collaboration, and pro-peace ideas powered the exchange in Akure – the largest city in Ondo State, Southwestern Nigeria.
The storytellers and mentors included; Owoeye Abolade and Seun Oladipuso (Commonwealth Summer School Alumni), Tony Joy (Associate Fellow; Royal Commonwealth Society & Founder; M.A.D. Initiative), Imiefuo Emmanuel Aliu (President; AIESEC Akure), Bidemi Tiamiyu (United Bank for Africa Campus Ambassador & Founder; House of Babiti), Uche Jephtah (Pulse.ng Campus Ambassador), and Abayomi Timileyin (Co-Founder; InsideFUTA).
Even though, I had to go from pillar to post to keep things running, as a co-organizer, during the exchange, I reflected on personal takeaways:
- Unprepared school teachers could slow down peace-building initiatives by students. And they are in majority. During the next 12-months, much social progress can be achieved on this year’s Commonwealth theme, and this progress can be influenced by students and young people, as they are forces of equality and good governance, catalysts for global peace-building; and essential resources for sustainable development. For example, Owoeye Abolade said, “through reverse psychology and open conversations they can influence their parents, guardians, or families to end domestic violence” – the theme’s special area of focus.
Notwithstanding, school teachers have a strong role in strengthening their voices. Their role can not be fulfilled when they have insufficient knowledge on societal issues such as peace-building, education for sustainable development, and equity rights. This knowledge gap was not only visible during the exchange, but it also made me think if, under their stead, the student participants would be able to continuously translate their excitement and interests into real actions.
- To build a pool of more competent school teachers, capacity-building programmes that equips teachers with transferable leadership skills to effect change in their classrooms and communities should become commonplace.
- Co-creating sustainable partnerships and development efforts are important for peace-building. A major concern now is how to make people care about “A Peace-building Commonwealth.” Clearly, this bold theme supports Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16, and if no one notices them, they would not attract the attention they need to build momentum and action.
Imiefuo Emmanuel Aliu, while facilitating the United Nations SDGs Immersion session acknowledged that collaborating for peace-building is not always easy, but it can help organizations and people innovate faster, solve crisis and conflicts, and learn more.
To achieve a peaceful world, it is crucial that the rights of children and young people be respected. Peace by Piece – together we can change the world.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
OGHENECHOVWEN, Oghenekevwe Christopher is a third-year undergraduate at the Federal University of Technology Akure. He currently serves on the Special Interest Group Committee of the Commonwealth Youth Council, and the World Oceans Day Youth Advisory Council. Even though his new laptop recently got spoilt because of water spills, he is more troubled about the rising cost of Garri. The author tweets @c_chovwen