Peace Education Worldwide: The Radijojo World Children’s Media Network Experience

Thomas Röhlinger, peace education, global education magazineThomas Röhlinger 

Dipl.-Soz. Thomas Röhlinger , MBA. Founder & Editor in Chief Radijojo World Children’s Media Network. “Global expert” of UN Alliance of Civilizations. Winner of Communication for Sustainable Social Change Award University of Massachussets Amherst 

e-mail: roehlitom@yahoo.de  / web: www.radijojo.org

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Abstract: Radijojo World Children’s Media Network (in short: Radijojo) is a multi-award-winning NGO connecting children in more than 100 countries. This article provides empirical examples and theoretical reflections of how children worldwide contribute to a culture of Peace, using the power of non-commercial participative media, in the Radijojo framework. The report is based on the methods of Participatory Action Research and Participant Observation. This perspective is inevitably “subjective“; but it offers the chance to give neutral observers relatively rare empirical insights into the peace educational fieldwork on several continents; insights into the complex processes behind this fieldwork for peace, insights that can be triangulated or falsified in follow-up studies. The observation period is the time since the establishment of Radijojo in 2003. This long timeframe allows of more than a decade allows general critical analysis and reflection. However, the main focus is on projects in more recent years.

Keywords: Peace education, Radijojo World Children’s Media Network, children’s media, intercultural dialogue, conflict prevention, children’s rights, civil-society media.

Children are the most vulnerable group of humans. They are the ones that suffer most from war and armed conflict. It is their future that is at stake; both generally worldwide and especially in the conflicts that we have to observe from Gaza to Libya, from Ukraine to Syria, from South Sudan to Iraq. Children have the right to be saved from armed conflict.

Hence, children should be in focus of the activities of peace building.

But children are also global citizens.They have the abilities to contribute to a global culture of peace. They have equal rights of free expression and participation. But too often, they are neglected from raising their voice for peace. Worldwide, it can be observed that children are talked down, marginalized, underestimated.

Hence, we have to empower them to speak up for peace and make friends across cultural, geographical, religious and social borders.

In the following, we give examples of how Radijojo World Children’s Media Network tries to contribute to these goals. We share lessons learned and, at the end, give some recommendations.

But first some general informations about Radijojo and the role of peace education in its mission:

About Radijojo World Children’s Media Network

Radijojo has been founded in 2003 as independent NGO to empower children to create and use non-commercial media for education, peace, children’s rights. All content is made with/by kids for kids; it is free of advertising; it is offered as Open Educational Resources to schools, kindergartens, public libraries, civil-society media (community radios) for free. Radijojo has been awarded by UNESCO, UNICEF, UN Alliance of Civilizations, German Federal President et.al. Patrons are German chancellor Angela Merkel and the world-famous conductor Daniel Barenboim.

Methodological comments

The report is based on the methods of Participatory Action Research and Participant Observation following the spirit of Paolo Freire both as researcher and educator. Hence, the article does not pretend to be a „neutral“ or „objective“ document created by a not-involved observer. It is written by a children’s media and Peace activist who is leading the organisation Radijojo and several of its projects, working both in the field and in the general management.

Like many other actors working for Peace, Radijojo is a grassroots civil society-driven organisation; a small social system that can „objectively“ be described in workflows, mission statements and financial reports.

But these standardized quantitative methods often miss much of the point. After all, organisations like Radijojo are social systems created for social change. The do not follow corporate business plans; but missions that are developed as an ever-developing mix of individual experiences, subjective emotions, personal insights and collectively shared values. The mission of organisations like Radijojo is not developed on the basis of quantitative market analyses, since children are not „a market“ for activists. Under economical premises and conventional rational choice aspects, we all would have left Radijojo a long time ago. So, quantitative analysis of Radijojo’s work seems not enough as a pattern of explanation.

In other words: Central human values like Peace, friendship, empathy and joy can hardly be adequately operationalized into numbers – neither for controlling purposes and nor for serious social research.

This is why we give „subjective“ insights into two of such important aspects in the following: the historical context of Radijojo being a „German“ organisation and biographical aspects that can explain significant parts of the reasons for the decisions made to focus on working for peace.

Radijojo Peace Morocco Tamansourt

Radijojo’s work for Peace in its historical “German“ context

The fact that Radijojo is a German organisation is of significance in this context: The founder and the leading team of Radijojo are Germans. They are fully aware that their home country Germany, in its history, was responsible for the most terrible wars on the planet: World War I and II. They are aware that their home country was responsible for a historically singular event of genocide: the Holocaust. They are aware of the ruthless behavior of German colonialists in Subsahara Africa and elsewhere.They are ashamed of these parts of the history of their country. They are aware of the special role that Germany as a country and Germans as responsible „Global citizens“ should play in the international community, with this given background.

Hence, working for Peace is one of the key values of the whole Radijojo team. And it is the value that links us with like-minded partners worldwide.

Radijojo’s work for Peace in its biographical context

The work of Radijojo should also be seen in the context of the personal motivations that lead to the engagement for peace: Radijojo’s founder Thomas Röhlinger grew up just a few miles away from the historical place of concentration camp KZ Buchenwald. He grew up in East Germany, a country where anti-war and anti-fascist propaganda was omnipresent. But still, as a pupil in the rural area of Thuringia in the 1980ies, he could hear a lot of antisemitic, facist and racist statements of peer students on the schoolground, often in form of „jokes“ like „Ich bin hungrig/mir ist kalt – ich will zurück nach Buchenwald“ (I am hungry, I am cold – I want to go back to Buchenwald“). Later, he often heard local soccer fans singing antisemitic songs e.g. „Berlin, Berlin, Juden-Berlin!“ or („Berlin, Berlin, city of the jews!“) In the last years, an unprecedented series of killings of innocent foreigners in Germany was revealed by the police. The alleged murderers grew up exactly in Röhlinger’s home region, in the town of Jena. He is still ashamed that this could be possible, in Germany, just a few decades after World War II. and Holocaust.

Röhlinger’s both grandfathers served in the nazi army Wehrmacht. According to family stories, the first grandfather was an high-level engineer to helped to build the notorious bomber aircrafts that killed tenthousands of innocent people. His second grandfather served as doctor at the front and was captured by the Red Army. He came home many years after the war had ended, as a broken man.

His father Peter Röhlinger, a German politician who is a co-founder of Radijojo, can still remember the nights that he spent in a bomb shelter in Jena during World War II. He always made clear that we all have to fight for peace, both when talking to the family or in his political life as mayor of Jena and member of the German Federal Parliament.

It was this personal context that raised Thomas Röhlinger’s awareness for the importance of peace and tolerance and created some personal moral obligation to „do something“.

From this perspective, both the institution and the work of the German core staff working for Radijojo can be interpreted as concrete personal contributions to Peace, by German media and education activists. These activities are supported by German official institutions; which should not be given for granted with reference to the German history.

Radijojo’s work for Peace, applied to project level

The work for Peace is core element of the most important project that Radijojo has been running since its foundation in 2003. In each of these projects, the element of Peace education is applied in a different context; adapted to varying project missions, geographical regions, age groups and social milieus.

In the following, we will give insights into the most relevant of these projects and how the peace education philosophy is adapted to each context:

We are the future of Morocco!“ www.futur.edublogs.org

This project is a media based project to empower children and youth in Morocco for Peace, education and intercultural dialogue. The project shall be seen as part of the so-called „Transformation partnerships“ that the German Federal Government has established with several countries of the post-Arab-Spring.

The strategic/geopolitical background of this „Transformation partnerships“ is clearly the Peace perspective: It is of great importance that Germany and Europe develop positive and sustainable relations with its direct neighbors, especially with the „Muslim world“.

The project is funded by Institute for Auslandsbeziehungen (IFA) with funds of German Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It is collaboration between Radijojo and its local partner Youth Association for Culture and Development (YACD), involving schools, children’s centre and NGOs in different parts of Morocco.

The peace education aspect is central for the project. Adapting it to the projects mission and context, peace education is combined with:

  • training of methods of peaceful conflict solution

  • helping children to use all kids of arts and media to express their views, hopes, dreams and fears; as essential basic elements to strengthen self-esteem, allow self-expression, encourage self-reflection, foster peer-to-peer exchange and support equal access to public awareness

  • encouraging children and youth to have their say in the Moroccan society on issues of their concern, contributing to inner-Moroccan dialogue; to smooth and inclusive transformation (this is what the project title „We are the future of Morocco“ stands for).

  • helping children to make direct media-based contact with peers in other countries, especially Germany, to foster intercultural dialogue

  • helping educators to use web-based resources for Peace-building in their local education contexts (both formal and non-formal)

  • helping international organisations like Anna Lindh Foundation and UN Alliance of Civilization to transfer their peace-building know-how to Morocco and the Maghreb region

  • raising awareness and gain appreciation for the work of the children and their messages with local exhibitions of the artwork made by the young peace activists

  • raising broad regional awareness of ten thousands of Moroccans for the achievements of the children through collaboration with broadcasting media (first public station SNRT, now private station MFM)

  • gaining international recognition for the work of the students with high-level awards: World Summit Youth Award in Montreal/Canada and winner prize of Global Forum of UN Alliance of Civilizations in Vienna/Austria

The project has started in 2012 and is since then ongoing. The team has successfully overcome a lot of challenges and scepticism:

  • scepticism towards western people coming to small, traditional local communities, e.g of the Berber communities in remote regions of the High Atlas Mountains

  • scepticism towards western educators entering the highly regulated education sector

  • scepticism towards western media activists entering the highly regulated media sector

  • scepticism towards the approach to work with very young children and youth as primary focus group of peace education

The project regularly gives evidence to the hypothesis that peace education should start as early as possible, before prejudice, ignorance and agression against other cultures, religions and nations develop. It proves that peaceful collaboration is possible between Muslim and Western organisations. It proves that such collaboration brings results that otherwise would not be possible. It proves regularly that there is an enormous interest for such collaborations all over Morocco and beyond; an interest that is by far higher that Radijojo can meet with its given capacities.

Global Green Kids www.radijojo.de/globalgreenkids

This project is mainly dedicated to Environment, Nature and Sustainable Development; connecting children in Europe with peers in the Global South and all over the world. The link to Peace education is of great importance; and it is very obvious: Peace is the overall context of this project. Without a healthy environment, fair development and robust nature, Peace will not prevail. And without a peaceful collaboration, none of the global problems concerning environment and development will be solved. These are some of of the main insights of the young activists that repeatedly derive from the workshops.

This link between Peace, environment and development was also one of the central messages that UN Messenger for Peace Jane Goodall shared when she was repeatedly interviewed by the Radijojo kids. Jane’s granddaughter, an activist of the next generation, personally joined the Global Green Kids for a workshop and supported this message.

The project has a focus on 9 modules in local schools; 6 of them in Germany, one each in Hungary, Czech Republic and Poland. In each module, the local school partners with an organisation in the Global South; with the goal to create a true North-South dialogue. This can be considered as another series of examples for fruitful practical peace education.

Global Green Kids is funded by the German Federal Foundation for the Environment (DBU) and the City of Berlin (LEZ). The project is official national project of the UNESCO Decade „Education for Sustainable Development“.

We discover the world www.radijojo.de/we-are-discovering-the-world

This project is Radijojo’s initiative for fair globalization and development; focussing on issues like child labour, children’s rights, fair trade and gender. It is supported by German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development and „Bread for the World“.

Like in the Global Green Kids, each module makes a link between a school in the North (Germany) and the South; reaching from Uganda to Kyrgystzan, from Brazil to Pakistan. Partners are renown organisations like Global Campaign for Education, Global March Against Child Labour, Plan International, UNICEF and dozens of grassroots organisations in the Global South.

Again, the link to Peace is quite clear: This project can be considered as an example for the statement of Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, former Director General of UNESCO (quoted from Global Education Magazine facebook page)

“Humanity can not achieve a sustainable development without a culture of peace…”.

This link becomes obvious e.g. when the students learn about the life of children in a refugee camp in Malawi or when they make friends with students in Afghanistan who are both directly suffering from the violence surrounding them.

The fact that children in all these countries learn together and try to find solutions for urging global issues is a remarkable achievement of Peace education in itself.

Unfortunately, only the educational work inside Germany is funded; all the collaboration with the South partner is totally dependend on voluntary engagement; which limits the repeatedly proven impact of the project for Peace and Development.

EUROMED KIDS www.radijojo.de/euromedkids

This platform is connecting children and youth in the EUROMED region (EU and MENA), using participative media for peace, intercultural dialogue and children’s rights. The initial funding was granted by Anna Lindh Foundation (Alexandria) with funds of the European Union. Anna Lindh Foundation represents more than 40 countries of the EU, North Africa and Near East. This includes several countries with massive conflicts: Syria, Egypt, Israel, Palestine and others. So, from its regional scope, this platform has the potential to play an important role in establishing a „structured children’s dialogue for Peace“ around the Mediterranean region.

The pilot project with Anna Lindh Foundation proved that

  • children across the EUROMED region are willing and able to use media and arts for peaceful dialogue

  • children across the EUROMED region are willing and able to use the EUROMED KIDS platform as a common space for peaceful dialogue

  • educators and parents across the EUROMED region are willing and (when properly trained) able to support their children in their work for Peace

  • civil-society media in several EUROMED countries (Turkey, Cyprus, Germany) are willing to share and distribute kids-created media content for peace

But the pilot project revealed and proved serious challenges that hinder Peace education in the region:

  • bureaucracies on national, regional and local levels hindering peace education work on the ground

  • language barriers hindering successful dialogue and fast collaboration

  • racism, prejudice, ignorance among local communities negatively effect children across the EUROMED region in their emotional and intellectual, from early on.

  • existing education systems do not support peace efforts by children in appropriate and regular form

  • existing media systems do not support peace efforts by children in appropriate and regular form

  • all kinds of political, economic and religious power groups hinder and threaten the peace education efforts on the ground

  • insufficient funding and bureaucratic funding policies discourage peace education organisations significantly

The project gave strong evidence to the hypothesis that long-year, continuous and reliable funding are essential to create sustainable peace education effects; both in longer perspective and with reference to a large scale of beneficiaries.

For Europe as a continent, especially for the communication of children within the European Union, Radijojo has created the platform EUCHIRA (European Children’s Radio) in 2008: www.euchira.eu

The Transatlanic School Initiative / Across the Ocean

www.across-the-ocean.org and www.radijojo.de/transatlantic-school-initiative

This project is connecting children and educators in Germany/Europe with peers in North America. The historical context of this project is the Transatlantic partnership rooting back to the post-war European Recovery Program. It is funded by the Transatlantic Program of the German Federal Ministry of Economy.

Again, Peace education is at the heart of the project: Germany and the US were enemies in both World Wars. East Germany and the US were enemies in the Cold War. There is still a lot of prejudice and lack of knowledge on both sides of the Atlantic to be found both among kids and adults.

These deficits have the potential to seriously harm the peaceful partnership that is today connecting both countries and world regions.

Again, we have been successfully connecting children and youth of all age groups, creating and sharing media.

The project has a remarkable scope of issues shared: Experiences of Youth exchange, history, nature and environment, education, children’s rights, sports, rights of minorities, rights of indigenous cultures, school violence and much more.

This is another aspect of Radijojo’s Peace education methodology that has proven success: Empowering kids to find common ground on a wide range of issues, sharing experiences from many different fields, helps them to learn to know each other, respect each other and become friends.

Radijojo’s global holiday media camps

www.radijojo.de

During holidays, Radijojo offers media workshops for kids from marginalized communities in Berlin, connecting them with peers worldwide in video conferences; thus giving the kids access to innovative forms of media based global education. With our media camps that we have been conducting since 2011, we have successfully made media links to children in dozens of countries: Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Argentina, Russia, Hungary, Kiribati, Kazakhstan, Mauritania and many others.

The holiday camps are in an informal holiday camp setting in a local youth centre. Since the project is visited by kids from marginalized backgrounds on voluntary basis, it has a bit more emphasis on entertainment and joy than in our regular school workshops who focus more on educational results.

This project regularly contributes to Peace in two directions:

  • On global level, it connects children worldwide in the spirit of Peace, joy and friendship. It connects children of all continents, different religions and cultures in a safe, child-friendly environment. Many of the relations established in the media camps last for years. Social media play a growing role in this „global networking for Peace“ effect.

  • On local level, it contributes to a peaceful coexistence of children from diverse cultures. Many of the kids have the roots of their families in war/conflict-effected countries like Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and former civil-war regions of the Balkans. This work is of special relevance, if one considers that Germany increasingly becomes a „battlefield“ for „imported“ conflicts between the rapidly growing different ethnic groups of refugees and migrants: The Gaza conflicts lead to open violent street fights between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups in Berlin. The recent attack of IS in Iraq against the Jesside communities lead to open unprecedented street fights in the rather remote town of Herford between Jessides and radical islamist groups etc.

The project has earned the prestigious „Goldene Göre Award“ as best national children’s participation project.

Again, funding is the main limiting factor: The lasting peace education impact of the project and the number of direct beneficiaries could be much higher with a direct and continuous financial support of our award-winning work.

The main reason here is a local one: Whilst Radijojo gets significant funding from national level, it always lacks the support needed on local level; which constantly endangers the work of Radijojo as a whole.

Even Berlin is the capital of one of the richest countries in the world, our local working conditions are not satisfying: Right now, we have to move and rebuild our local office – for the fifth time in 12 years. We lose a lot of money again (which we do not have); and we lose lot enormous social capital (all the connections to the marginalized kids and families in our local neighborhood) because of this decision that was made by local authorities of the city of Berlin, claiming to have no money for initiatives like us (we are not the only ones suffering from such decisions).

After more than a decade of multi-award-winning work, we have no clear perspective about where our headquarters in Berlin will be in the next year and beyond.

At the same time, the same local Berlin authorities spend millions of euros to rebuild a castle that was destroyed in World War II.; a castle that belonged to the former German Kaiser who was responsible for triggering World War I. – which brings us back to the interrelation of German history, war and peace education.

Conclusions and Recommendations:

The examples indicate that participative media based Peace education can be effective and efficient in the work with children of all age groups, in all world regions, of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds.

This media based peace education methodology – this is our hypothesis based on more than one decade of successful work with all five continents – has the potential to serve hundreds of millions of children, youth and families worldwide to learn, live and work together for a more peaceful world.

Participative media based Peace education can significantly contribute to the sustainable development of a global culture of Peace.

But this can only be successful with regular, reliable and sufficient funding: for research, for internationally coordinated project implementation, for the establishment and maintenance of common non-commercial media platforms for Peace, and above all for the practical peace education field work with children and educators worldwide.

It furthermore needs intense and enduring support from the education and media authorities, the civil society on global, regional, national and local level, from parents and the academic sector.

This, in turn, needs massive changes in the international and national political priority list and agenda.

We all, as global education experts, academics and practitioners must not only again and again analyze this deficitary status quo. This has been done countless time before; and it did obviously not bring the change needed.

Both from the viewpoint of participatory action research and peace education practice, it is our duty to pro-actively work for the recommended changes.

About the author Thomas Röhlinger

Founder & Editor in Chief of Radijojo World Children’s Media Network

Holds an MBA in Media management and the German university Diploma in Sociology; additionally studied publishing and psychology. Is alumni of the Berlin School of Journalism.

Member of the “Global Experts” network of the UN Alliance of Civilizations

Keynote Speaker 2014 & Member of the Advisory Board of the Global Education Conference

Has been holding countless school workshops in Germany, Morocco, Indonesia, Mali, Namibia, Thailand, USA, South Africa, Serbia and other countries.

Holds workshops for educators, university students, community radio staff, policy makers in Germany and worldwide, e.g. the World Summit on Media for Children in Johannesburg 2007, in Karlstad / Sweden 2010, at the World Summit on Media for Children’s Rights in Thailand 2009 and many other occasions.

This article was published on 21stSeptember International Day of Peace, in Global Education Magazine.

  • http://www.essaybulldogs.com/ essaybulldogs

    Many would surely hope that from this kind of activity that they were doing, it could effectively motivate other people from other countries to promote peace in order for all of the people to benefit from it and kids will going to continue their learning without worrying on some problems that might just going to occur.

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