RCFC's Peace Initiative has had an ambitious effort to connect the study of peace literacy with the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic.  RCFC is thrilled to report that the Rotary Foundation has contributed its share to what was raised locally and in Denver toward the $35,000 needed to continue efforts to promote sustainable peacebuilding in the impoverished nation of Burundi.
Burundi still struggles to overcome the legacy of German and Belgian colonization and a civil war that followed.
In Burundi, we believe that our focus on the understanding of the sustainable peace process—i.e., peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding—will serve to strengthen the nation with new ideas and skills for improved communication and cooperation, negotiation and mediation, critical and creative thinking, especially in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. We accept the challenge of connecting peacebuilding with the health of society, the economy and nature—the definition of sustainability. What began with a Fulbright Specialist Award in 2011 has been extended by three Global Grants from the Rotary Foundation in support of our latest work on peace literacy and public health.

Fulgence Twizerimara

Fulgence Twizerimana is an English teacher at Hope Fountain Elementary School in Ngozi, a modest sized city of 25,000 plus in northern Burundi where peace prevailed even during those times when civil war seemed to be raging everywhere else. As a member of the local Rotary Club he has taken to heart the idea of “service above self” and together we started brainstorming the potential interface between peace studies and learning English. He had seen a copy of Timpson’s co-authored book, “147 Tips for Teaching Peace and Reconciliation.” Because these “tips” range from 1-3 paragraphs in length, they lend themselves to short English lessons that would also be a vehicle for showcasing particular concepts in the study of peace and reconciliation. What if, we wondered, we designed a program that would teach English through the study of peace and then addressed health?
Literacy, sustainable peacebuilding and public health
In the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Brazilian educator Paulo Freire (2007) offered ideas that later were adopted for a national literacy campaign that migrated to other nations like Cuba who, in turn, used these ideas to lay a much need foundation for improvements in public health, in particular.
The national literacy campaigns initiated in Cuba after the 1959 revolution demonstrated to the world how a lifting of the reading capabilities of an entire population, especially the formerly illiterate, can raise the floor of possibilities and allow for innovations that can dramatically improve public health. For example, by learning the basics of reading, formerly illiterate peasants could now be informed about needs like the boiling of water that otherwise too often led to dysentery and other diseases with staggering consequences. Today Cuba is one of the world’s leaders in basic population health.
What was also common to these successful literacy campaigns was their use of small groups and peer interactions, not the hierarchical classroom model that had been the norm with the teacher in front directing instruction. Defying conventional thinking and the prevailing paradigms of educational researchers, Freire was going for something deep, a motivation to improve the lives of the illiterate once they understand how to read about their own realities.