Training sessions
Teachers’ training
19 February, 2011 at USJ premises, CEMAM offices.
A training was held for the teachers who volunteered to participate in this project. In total, 12 schools were represented.

Mr. Piers Pigou, member of the South Africa Historical Archive (SAHA), with a background in oral history techniques, was invited from South Africa to spend a week with the trainers to provide advice and material on the set of trainings for both teachers and students, and to facilitate the teachers’ training.

Mr. Pigou provided an overview of oral history, and examined various issues related to the purpose, process, and practice of oral history. He emphasised that this project was an investment in a longer-term process, and that the teachers were themselves the most important resource in this process. He highlighted that all societies, at one point or another, have had to engage with their past, but that this was a particularly important process for societies emerging from periods of conflict.

Father Granian then followed, discussing his book ‘An Armenian in Uncertain Times’; a memoir which narrates the years between 1973 and 1983. He talked mainly about the impact of the war and its violence on the Armenian community, and how the community survived yet another traumatic period in its history.

Following both presentations, a short film was screened to share one of SAHA’s projects, ‘Meeting History Face to Face’, to show the teachers a very similar project which was carried out in Johannesburg. The SAHA project encouraged teenage students to collect oral history testimonies about the apartheid period. The film shows testimonies from these students, explanations from their teachers, and how this project was embedded within a much wider project of memorialization around the apartheid period.

During the trainings the teachers often expressed the view that the past needed to be tackled, and that while there was great curiosity among their students to learn about their recent history, they, as educators, lacked the material and tools to teach it to them.
One teacher said: “this project is very important, very deep. We have a problem in our history; all the history books have no indication of the Lebanese identity, the Lebanese nation;”

Another said: “At schools, we play ostrich. We should open the wounds, because they are open anyway. Not pretend it never happened. All this collective memory, the students don’t know it. Unfortunately in Lebanon, our history repeats itself.”

The ensuing discussion served to examine the themes that should be addressed in the questionnaire, the logistics of the project and its implementation with the students, ways to accompany the students through the project, and other issues.

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© Badna Naaref, 2012 - Development: Multiframes