The UN Goes to School


As the world marked the World Holocaust Day, the United Nations took the peace campaign to schools to catch them young. Peace Obi writes

People do not only learn from their own mistakes but also from the mistakes of others. Experiences from past mistakes, when positively applied do not only lead to the avoidance of the reoccurrence of unpleasant situations, it also paves way for informed and thought-through decisions, progress and quality life for both individuals as well as the society at large. To spread the message of hope, peace and actions geared towards building a safer and happier society, the United Nations through its international days created special observances to promote international awareness and action on different issues.

The UN, founded in 1945 after the World War II when many nations were in ruins and the world in desperate need of peace has ever since remained committed to its founding charters. In its drive to live up to its mandate, the international organistion marks each international day with a theme. The first on its calendar is the Holocaust Day, observed across the globe every 27th of January.

On the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, the UN in different parts of the world organises campaigns, educating people on the lessons from Adolf Hitler’s Nazi German force and its collaborators’ dastardly acts that caused the death of over six million European Jews among others. Described as the worst crime against humanity, the UN through its founding Charter has remained resolute in its pursuit for the prevention of such extreme escalation of hate in and around the world again.

In its 2018 Holocaust Day, the international organisation took its campaign train to schools, catching and filling the minds of young people with values of tolerance, reasons to embrace peace, respect for individual human rights, to say no to hate and violence.

The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Gutterres in his message for the 2018 Holocaust Remembrance Day with a theme, ‘Holocaust Remembrance and Education: Our Shared Responsibility’, called on people and countries to resist racism, normalisation of hate and violence. “Today, we remember the six million Jewish men, women and children who perished in the Holocaust. Countless others also lost their lives as cruelty convulsed the world. Yet, decades since the Second World War, we see the persistence of anti-semitism and an increase in other forms of prejudice.

“Neo-Nazis and white supremacy groups are among the main purveyors of extreme hatred. And too often, vile views are moving from the margins to the mainstream of societies and politics. We must stand together against the normalisation of hate.

“Whenever and wherever humanity’s values are abandoned, we are all at risk. All of us have a responsibility to quickly, clearly and decisively resist racism and violence. Through education and understanding, we can build a future of dignity, human rights and peaceful coexistence for all,” Gutterres said.

Speaking in Lagos during this year’s Holocaust Day at Government College, Agege, the Country Director, United Nations Information Centre, Ronald Kayanja said that his organisation is worried that more than 70 years after the Holocaust, “we still have cases of people killing others because of their tribe, race or religion. This should not be happening!”

According to him, the UN is deliberate in its effort in reaching out to the young people. He described the human mind as the seat of all human activities and centre of decisions and that it must be positively filled with right information for right behaviourial traits and actions.

In his remarks, UN Country Director said that, “we decided today to bring together students from about 90 schools from District 1 in Lagos State Education Districts to create awareness about the dangers of the Holocaust, how it happened, why it happened so that it does happen again.”

Kayanga noted that “the United Nations was formed as one of the solutions to this evil.” And that UN wants to ensure that it doesn’t happen ever again to humanity where people die because they are different, because of their religion or because of their race. “This is the awareness we want to create here. That is why we called the young people to inculcate into them the values of tolerance so that we have people that stand against hatred,” he said.

“Today, we are calling on all of you to stand against hate, hate speech and violence against people because of their identity. Each of us has a role to play. Let us put an end to hate speech on social media. Let us learn tolerance of one another. We have lined up events to remind us of the tragic happenings of the holocaust. Our hope is that you – the young people will learn lessons that will enable us have a peaceful society,” Kayanja told the students.

Speaking further Kayanja told THISDAY that UN’s partners, stakeholders and other organisations were equally organising similar event in schools around the country, especially about the issue of hatred. “You know, it started from hatred and it became a big thing where more than six million people were killed.” He noted that the pockets of violence being recorded around the world should give everyone, especially governments cause for concern.

“That is the message of the UN Secretary-General, that we are probably not seeing that magnitude but we are worried there is hate speech. People speak against each other because of their tribe or race and this is something we must stand up against. Remember there was genocide in Rwanda where about one million people were killed, we even had many crimes against humanity in Europe in the 90s.

In his message to the government, Kayanja said, “it is very important what messages the government of Nigeria is giving to the people. Nigerian Government should come up with messages that indicate that all Nigerians are equal. By working together, this great country will be built,” he said.

Earlier in her opening remarks, the Tutor General/Permanent Secretary, District 1, Dr. Ayandele Abiose, encouraged every participant to take the lessons from the event home so as to jointly work to make the world a better place. “We are here to learn more about this event and live in peace with each other and with one another. We are all one, created by one and the same God. No one is more important or superior to another; we are equal before God. So, we should treat ourselves as fellow human being.”

The Tutor General who was represented by the HOD, School Administration Department, Mrs. Ann Akoo urged the students to learn from every segment of the programme which include film show and quiz. She encouraged them to take all they will learn from meeting to their friends back home and in school.

Commenting on the lessons he learnt from a film show titled, ‘The Path to Nazi Genocide’, Master Daniel David from Surulere Senior Secondary School said, “Watching the film, I saw the frightening height of human right abuse. I don’t wish that such wickedness happens again. I am glad that Nigerian youths and students in particular are getting to learn about this grave cruelty against humanity. I am also convinced this will help youths to decide never, never to get involved in violence.

“I have learnt that we are equal before God and we should respect people’s rights. For me, I’m ready to take this message far. I will share the message of tolerance and lessons I learnt from this meeting with my friends both in school and at home. I will also encourage them to spread it further because I think that way, we will be curbing the tendency in people to hate and to discriminate against people for whatever reasons so that we can live in peace and harmony in this country.”

Sharing her views also, Miss Oyindamola Oyewusi of Ijejun Senior Comprehensive High School, said that she felt emotional watching how the European Jews were robbed of their rights, separated from their fellow citizens as well as made it illegal for them to go school.

In her recommendation on how to forestall the reoccurrence of such evil in whatever magnitude, Oyewusi called for more enlightenment for a larger number of Nigerian youths in every part of the country. “Our youth should be given education on the danger and consequences of fomenting violence and killing people indiscriminately.”

In her appeal to the government, Oyewusi urged governments at all levels to provide job for unemployed people, provide good security, arrest and prosecute those responsible for the unnecessary waste of lives in the country. According to her, “because if not properly handled the current situation in the country may lead to something untoward for all us in this country,” the student warned.