Emam Abdelgadir works in the field of peace education. Photo: © Uli Reinhardt

From Student to Trainer

For two months the Sudanese Emam Abdelgadir has been working for the organisation "act for transformation" in Aalen, Germany – together with a German colleague that he’s known for some time.

Portrait by Rike Uhlenkamp

Emam Abdelgadir has to hurry up. The 10th graders of the Michelbach Protestant School Centre walk at a hurried pace. Many stations of the city rally in Schwäbisch Hall are ahead for them. They walk through the city centre, past the Gothic St. Michael's Church, through the lane of the Dreimühlengasse, and to the bank of the Kocher River where fog drifts across the water. "Do you know where many of the stones that we're walking on right now come from?" Sophia Feil, one of the students, askes Emam Abdelgadir. He shakes his head. "Almost all of the cobblestones in Germany come from India where children chisel them under very bad working conditions. I only found out yesterday," explains the 16-year-old.

The students inform themselves about fair trade in Schwäbisch hall. Photo: Uli Reinhardt

The city rally is part of a two-day project called "Fair macht Schule" (Fair Makes Schools). Sophia Feil and her classmates are to learn under what conditions the products around them are made and how small businesses in their city are trying to support fair trade goods. The 37-year-old Emam Abdelgadir is hearing a lot for the first time. Up until now, he has not dealt with fair trade. At home in Sudan, he works in peace education and is a trainer in the Alternative to Violence Project (AVP), a violence prevention programme. Throughout Sudan, he teaches teachers, students, refugees and children living on the streets how conflicts can be recognised and solved without violence.

Conflict prevention through education

Ensuring peace, providing educational opportunities, preventing violence in conflicts – Emam Abdelgadir is sharing these emphases with Act for Transformation, a non-profit cooperative based in Aalen, Germany, which has also organised the city rally in Schwäbisch Hall and which is active throughout Baden-Württemberg. For the last two months, Emam Abdelgadir has been in Germany as a scholarship holder in ifa’s CrossCulture Programme Refugees and Migration. Well-trained specialists from eleven African countries and Germany cooperate with German or African organisations – both sides gaining from the cooperation expert knowledge as well as knowledge about the respective national context.

Emam Abdelgadir teaches violence prevention in Sudan. Photo: © Uli Reinhardt

Talking with Muslims, Christians and people from different regions of the country - when Emam Abdelgadir holds one of his workshops on violence prevention in Sudan, the scepticism is great at first. The prejudices are too strong. "I have to first build trust," he says. This is possible through role-playing games that even the illiterate children, like many on the streets, understand. For example, he appoints parts of a bus to participants of his course; they pretend to be the brakes, steering wheel, engine and the driver. It quickly becomes apparent that without the others steering, stopping and giving gas, nothing works. Only together they can reach their goal.

He has also held a seminar in Germany. Refugees and volunteers in refugee aid met in the regional church in Baden. But this time Emam Abdelgadir was not alone: Jürgen Menzel, who works for "Arbeitsstelle Frieden" as consultant for peace education and who is chairman of Act for Transformation, was his co-trainer. Twelve years ago, the two met in Sudan, where Jürgen Menzel was training Emam Abdelgadir in the frame of a project of the Civil Peace Service (CPS). From the former student, Emam Abdelgadir became a valued colleague. "I am very glad that we have Emam with us. It’s great to see how he has developed himself since we last saw each other," says Jürgen Menzel.

Conflict prevention at schools

Emam Abdelgadir comes from Darfur, the conflict region in Western Sudan, and before he was instructed to be a trainer by Jürgen Menzel, he studied teaching and education in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. When he returns, he would like to recommend a project to the Minister of Education. He noticed, "How useful it would be to include the Alternative to Violence program in school curriculum nationwide, throughout Sudan. Then every teacher could become a trainer."

Within the rally pupils learn to deal with complex topics. Photo:© Uli Reinhardt

For ten years Jürgen Menzel and Emam Abdelgadir were only in contact via e-mail. Now during his scholarship, Emam Abdelgadir lives with the Menzels and gets insights into the German culture as well. "That men cook for the family is unusual in Sudan. I learned that from Jürgen too."

The city rally is over, the fog has vanished. On the market square, the students gather, their voices echoing across the square. Jürgen Menzel pats Emam Abdelgadir on the shoulder, smiling broadly at him. "So, how did you like the city?" Emam Abdelgadir says the rally with the students was a good opportunity to see how young people can be helped to better understand critical topics. "But in the end, I also just wanted to show Emam the beautiful city of Schwäbisch Hall" says Menzel.