Each year, the Auschwitz Institute for the Prevention of Genocide and Mass Atrocities (AIPG) commemorates October 5 as World Teachers' Day, reaffirming our commitment to supporting, honoring, and defending the essential work carried out by educators.
Despite their critical role in nurturing preventive and compassionate societies, teachers are facing increasing challenges in educating in a world experiencing a growing wave of harmful, discriminatory, and violent narratives. This phenomenon threatens educators' capacity to provide safe and respectful learning environments, and their ability to use education as an instrument for fostering inclusive societies around the world.
AIPG is concerned about the increase in violence against school spaces in the most diverse contexts as a result of the growing wave of hatred. Data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) indicates that in 2021-2022, there were 327 shootings in elementary and secondary schools in the United States – a record high.1 In Brazil, the number of attacks more than doubled from 2019 to 2023, bringing a sense of insecurity within school walls.2
Many types of violence have also directly impacted the work of educators, including intimidation in the classrooms, efforts to censor education, and perpetuating hate and extremism. According to data released by the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom, the number of reported challenges to pedagogical books doubled in 2022, with many books on the list being challenged for including LGBTQIA+ content.3
Through its daily work with teachers in different contexts, AIPG’s Warren Educational Policies Program (WEPP) has become increasingly concerned about this trend and has made efforts to support educators at all levels.
In El Salvador, WEPP is launching a new edition of the educational material "Citizenship, Memory, and Culture of Peace" to provide teachers and school managers, as well as civil society organizations, with a series of practical tools to work on a curriculum of democratic citizenship, memory, and culture of peace with adolescents. In Brazil, a federal-level working group addressing the increase in hate speech identified the "Citizenship and Democracy in School" project as a model of preventive educational intervention. This recognition comes at a time of consolidation of the project, which now has partnerships with the Secretaries of Education in 16 Brazilian states and municipalities, involving 3,800 educators and reaching an estimated 114,000 students. To offer the best possible support for this work, in 2022, WEPP officially launched a Teacher Network, which includes an online platform aimed exclusively at sharing resources and opportunities for teachers, a bimonthly newsletter, an Instagram account, and a WhatsApp group.
To understand the project's effects on students and teachers, as well as to analyze its implementation process, WEPP hired a consultant to evaluate the project based on a comparative analysis between groups of students. The consultant used methods such as questionnaires, activity portfolios, classroom observations, and focus groups. The results indicate that AIPG’s approaches to strengthening education that promotes equity and combats hate are effective:
Following the successful projects in Latin America, AIPG is currently working to replicate this educational, preventive approach in other regions, expanding our commitment to supporting educators in building more respectful, inclusive, and resilient societies.
Roland-Sylvestre DAWA is a Legal Lecturer and Researcher at the Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences at the University of Bangui in the Central African Republic (CAR) and a Ph.D. student in International Relations, specializing in international politics at IRIC Yaoundé in Cameroon. He has participated in three AIPG online training courses and in-person training sessions on the prevention of genocide and identity-based violence.