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February 2015: The PBEA Post – Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy: Regional update


Planning for a (Very) Rainy Day

UNICEF Flood Response, Malawi

Mainstreaming Conflict and Disaster Risk Reduction into Education in ESARO

In the Eastern and Southern African region, 16 out of 21 countries were classified in 2014 as medium-to-high risk of experiencing shocks, with more than half categorised by the OECD as ‘fragile states’. The significance of this resonates well beyond statistics: conflicts and natural hazards threaten national security and roll back progress made in development gains for children, particularly the most marginalized and disadvantaged./p>

Countries which have endured conflict and natural disasters struggle in their delivery of key social services such as education, thus reinforcing inequalities. The impact of this is well known: increased unemployment and poverty; increased vulnerability and heightened risk of increasing social divisions. As such, a lack of preparedness can perpetuate a cycle that hampers development./p>

Yet when Governments do plan and invest in conflict and disaster-risk reduction programmes, they can create safe and constructive learning environments. Moreover, conflict sensitive approaches to education service delivery can minimize the likelihood of conflict occurring by strengthening social cohesion and resilience. Sensing such potential, in the last quarter of 2014, in Kampala, Uganda, a regional seminar was held on integrating conflict and disaster risk reduction (C/DRR) into Education Sector Plans and Policies. The initiative was spearheaded by UNICEF and UNESCOIIEP. It is embedded in a larger approach that will be continued in the ESA region, with interest also demonstrated at global level./p>

With more than 65 participants, covering the gamut of those countries considered ‘fragile’, including stakeholders from: Angola, Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Participants included Ministry of Education (MoE) officials, UNICEF Education Specialists and other education experts. The host country, Uganda, was represented by the Office of The Prime Minister (OPM) and UNESCO. Welcome visitors to the event included participants from the Inter-University Conference for Peace in East Africa (IUCP-EA), Makerere University in Uganda./p>

A regional mapping exercise on education-specific national assessment frameworks was a key component of the meeting, as were in-depth reviews of policies and programmes to minimise conflict and disaster risks. At the end of the regional seminar, participants returned to their respective countries with tangible country-level action plans, together with ideas on how to make inroads into preventing conflict, and mitigating the impacts of conflict-induced shocks.

As was noted by workshop organizers, “conflict and disaster reinforces inequalities and keeps the poorest poor, yet the risks can be reduced, minimised or managed by planning for it. Investing now in C/DRR saves lives and money in the future”. It was a sentiment shared by all participants.

Pilot Project Flying High in Somalia

Adolescents in a Child-to-Child Club, Puntland

Schools as Zones Of Peace in Somalia

One of the key objectives of all PBEA interventions in Somalia is to give children, adolescents and youth a voice in decision-making processes, and if possible, an active role in their communities to promote a culture of peace. It is a clear aim in a complex context where violence and conflict have been the norm for generations.

The Schools as Zones of Peace project, being piloted in Puntland and based on the tried-and-tested Child-to-Child (CTC) clubs approach, engages students with issues that affect them. They are taught to identify and address problems collectively, at their own level of understanding, and with the assistance of trained facilitators.

Each week 1,800 children across Puntland meet in their schools to identify their specific issues. The project builds problem-solving skills, critical thinking and creative expression - all normally under-represented in school curricula. And with great success so far, children are tasked to think about peace, conflict and how to handle disputes in a constructive manner, through age-appropriate activities. UNICEF’s PBEA initiative also works with schools’ wider communities, aiming to build conflict resolution skills to support localized community-level peacebuilding, rather than directly engaging on country-wide, political fault-lines.

The recurring themes discussed by students and communities relate to clan conflicts which can result in: ordinary disputes becoming tangled in clan politics risking violent escalation; school rivalries that can result in parents blaming teachers for favouring certain clans, and conflicts between students and teachers. Issues are addressed through the creation of plays and poetry. Community outreach is key, with students giving performances to audiences beyond their own schools.

Since September 2014, the programme has been implemented in partnership with the Ministry of Education of Puntland, with 50 CTC trainers for 50 schools in six towns having been trained (Galkayo, Garowe, Qardho, Bosaso, Baran and Boo’ame). Beneficiaries at school and community level now take an active role in resolving disputes constructively without having to go before school management, thus creating a much-improved atmosphere for children. Additionally, the CTC clubs have become a useful platform for young students to learn how to resolve disagreements peacefully at home. On another promising note, a number of inter-school events have taken place where children have organised literature and arts competitions focusing on traditional values, with the aim of strengthening social cohesion. The events have had good representation of local authorities – both traditional and official – as well as regional education officials. Said one participant: "PBEA is about building capacity to handle conflicts in a non-violent way, and this initiative in Somalia has shown very positive results with the school children and in their wider community.”

Youth and MPs Make a Plan, Juba

Youth jubilant outside the Peace Conference in Juba, South Sudan

The Right Moves

In late 2014 UNICEF South Sudan’s PBEA program co-hosted a groundbreaking peace conference entitled: “Learning Spaces as Zones of Peace (LSaZoP): A Call for South Sudan.” In an unprecedented fashion, the conference was attended by virtually every senior government official from the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Youth and Sport. The conference was an initiative to gain government endorsement for learning spaces as protected zones of peace for the children and youth of South Sudan.

Working with the premises that there are both visible and invisible effects from the country’s protracted conflict and ongoing civil war, the Juba conference had the ambitious objectives of positioning education to reduce violence, promote peace and save the lives of children, adolescents and those in conflict-affected communities. The agenda items were predominantly based on the principle that learning spaces need to become zones of peace (LSAZoP).

Part of the conference’s strategy was to put technical experts and high-level delegates together with children, adolescents and youth, so as to dialogue directly and publicly on issues, constraints, needs and hopes of young people. Creating platforms for young people to dialogue with government leadership and policymakers – particularly on the need for Learning Spaces as Zones of Peace in conflict-torn or fragile communities – are critical landmarks for the PBEA global Initiative. By reflecting on case studies from Nepal, Uganda and Kenya, the conversations in Juba focused on lessons learnt for promoting the culture of peace within the education sector and beyond. Other key presentations during the conference in Juba were on mainstreaming life skills and peace education into the national curriculum, and a KAP survey: ‘Social Cohesion and Resilience-Building in the context of South Sudan’ - another PBEA initiative. There was also a dialogue on the key roles that both sports and teachers’ education can play in peace-building in South Sudan.

A significant highlight of the event was the signing of a communiqué: a document which the children, adolescents and youth of South Sudan presented to senior ministers pursuing the Government’s commitment to promoting and maintaining learning spaces as protected areas for all children in the country.

The conference concluded with a Plan of Action for the participating ministries on how to translate the commitments made over the two-days into tangible results for children and youth.

Education and Resilience: Kenya’s ASAL 

In Kenya’s ASALs children, adolescents and youth need more context specific education

The Need to Get it Right in Education

In Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs), education is at a crossroads. Enrolment, retention and graduation rates in formal schools are among the lowest in the country. Despite valuing education, the relevance of ASALs schooling in its current form is leading to disappointment and a search for alternatives, including home schooling or religious education. Youth living in ASALs, often marked by risks of insecurity and cross-border threats, face low employment opportunities as well as growing political and social marginalization. How then can education in arid and semi-arid lands strengthen peace and resilience, in the face of external pressures and internal change?

Enter a report on ‘Education and Resilience Hazards in Kenya’s arid lands’ commissioned by UNICEF ESARO and funded by PBEA. Covering Turkana, Wajir and Marsabit counties, the research team met with over 840 people and visited 20 schools, collecting local perspectives through listening posts, focus groups, workshops and interviews.

Among the report’s main findings is that schooling in ASALs – which should equip young people for productive livelihoods – can, in fact, lead to urban unemployment and a disinclination for pastoralism. For many young people school raises expectations of formal salaried employment that cannot be met, thus contributing to youth alienation and frustration. The report found that poor results and low graduation rates leave many young people under-qualified for an urban workforce, but also that disengagement from rural pastoralism leaves them unable or unwilling to be part of the customary economy and society. The research describes them as ‘suspended’ between two worlds. This in areas where pastoralism provides 70% of the wealth.

As a result, education sometimes adds to pressures undermining social cohesion and creating vulnerability to radicalization. Not surprisingly, the study found that the current education curriculum could be more culturally, economically and geographically appropriate for many ASAL communities.

Elders and parents who were interviewed throughout the research described the dual problem this poses: a loss to pastoralism, the most productive part of the economy; and an addition to the ranks of urban poor, easily exploited, pulled into crime or other forms of divisive violence including radicalization.

However, not all is gloom for education in the ASALs. Many communities use schools as a social safety net for small children at ECD level through which children gain basic skills and competencies and are able to access feeding programmes. During periods of drought, schools are a commonly used mechanism to protect children from famine, as demonstrated by cyclical spikes in school enrolment that typically coincide with the harshest seasons in the ASALs. Many girls have also been protected and empowered through formal education, with many girls much more successful at finding livelihoods compared to boys. The next PBEA bulletin will provide details about the recommendations for mitigating these risks and using education to strengthen social cohesion and resilience. In the spirit of closer dialogue between those delivering and receiving education services in ASALs, these will be generated through consultative dialogues with communities, key stakeholders and government partners at national and county levels in Kenya.

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