15 Jul Pursuit of Reconciliation and Education Equality
“Reconciliation is a meeting ground where trust and mercy have met and where justice and peace have kissed.” (John Paul Lederach)
Conflict is inevitable. To avoid that conflict transforms into violence, bigger problem that tear the society apart, we need to think of strategies to solve these problems. Reconciliation aims to restore friendly relationships, to bring people together, in order to move towards a better and peaceful future. As a long process, it needs a search for truth, justice, forgiveness, and the establishment of trust and social justice. It involves various actors, from grassroots levels to broader political levels which are government and judicial institutions.
On the sixth day of Summer School, JC van der Merwe from The University of Free State, South Africa, helped us to understand how reconciliation works, especially in South Africa. Every 16 December, they commemorate Reconciliation Day, which started in 1994 after the end of apartheid. The South Africans established the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in 1996. As part of transitional justice, the TRC invited victims and perpetrators in public hearings to dig for the truth of human rights violations.
A lesson learned from South Africa is that a reconciliation process does not stop after the judicial process. Further, it needs the willingness and ability of civil society and government to create an enabling environment to fulfill social justice. This is what is problematic in South Africa nowadays.
Talking about social justice, in the afternoon session we encountered inequality of education experienced by children in Bangalore. We went on an excursion to a teacher learning center. Here we witnessed the side effects of unjust development and labour migration.
The center is part of a social responsibility program of the Azim Premji Foundation and is located next to an elementary public school on the outskirts of Bangalore. The center helps public school teachers to develop their professional knowledge and capacities so that they can teach with similar skills as private school teachers. In India, private schools often have better facilities, but mainly the rich and the high caste children are able to enroll there, although they also have scholarships for poorer children. In contrast, the government provides free public schooling.
Mrs. Sharlini, who coordinates the learning center, explained how they help teachers to be creative in facing the gap with private schools. She explained that public schools have to cope with several difficulties, for instance in aeras which are highly populated by labour migrants from other parts of the country. Here, children often have to help their parents who work as construction workers in order to supplement the family income. Then teachers have persuade the parents of the importance of education, so they can entrust their children to school.
Language is another barrier for learning. The Indian government has acknowledged 22 languages, meaning that most parts of India have different languages. This language diversity can be confusing, especially for migrant children who have to adapt to the local language.
The class on reconciliation and this excursion made us rethink how diversity and development should be managed to achieve social justice.
Ayu Mellisa is a researcher and public education staff member in the Center for the Study of Religion and Democracy, Paramadina Foundation, Jakarta – Indonesia. She obtained her bachelor degree in International Relations from Paramadina University, Indonesia, with a thesis on the role of women in peacebuilding.