The challenges of providing quality education in conflict areas
Conflict-affected countries called for better strategies to ensure that conflict-prevention is integrated into education policies and programmes and that education is not overlooked by donors and humanitarians
UNESCO recently welcomed Ministers of Education from Chad, Liberia, Mali, Palestine, and Uganda, as well as the Deputy Minister of Education from Sierra Leone and government representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya, to talk about their experiences of providing quality education during and after a conflict. Together with numerous ambassadors and representatives from the Permanent Delegations to UNESCO, UN agencies, bilateral organizations, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, academia and civil society organizations, they participated in the symposium Conflict-Sensitive Education – Why and How?, supported by Comic Relief, the European Commission, UNICEF, and USAID.
Co-organized by IIEP and the International Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) and its Working Group on Education and Fragility, the event offered concrete ideas to promote the implementation of conflict-sensitive education. Keynote speakers Carol Bellamy, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Global Partnership for Education, and Qian Tang, Assistant Director General for Education of UNESCO, drew attention to the funding gap on education in the humanitarian field and the insufficient recognition given to education in post-crisis recovery. The international community, they said, is focused on access without looking at the broader and deeper needs of the education sector, in particular the impact of conflict on education and the role that it can play in the mitigation and prevention of violence. They called upon the humanitarian and development sectors to collaborate more effectively for the sake of increasing the quality of educational investment in post-crisis settings.
Minister Lamis Alami from Palestine highlighted the importance of harmonizing donor funding in order to implement successful quality education programmes. Minister Etmonia Tarpeh from Liberia emphasized the negative impacts of conflict on the learning process of the child, “in the midst of conflict there is absolutely no psychological balance in the teaching/learning process. The environment becomes unconducive; some children are introduced to violence and anti-social practices, while some of them involuntarily assume tendencies of early adulthood". Following the outbreak of conflict in Mali, the provision of education became problematic; Minister Bocar Moussa Diarra explained how the subsequent suspension of aid from international donors impacted the education system, and he highlighted some of the possible risks, such as the difficulty to recruit the necessary teachers to support the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and children dropping out as a result of a lack of food and school materials.
During the symposium, INEE launched its Conflict Sensitive Education Pack, composed of the “Guiding Principles for Integrating Conflict Sensitivity in Education Policy and Programming in Conflict-Affected and Fragile Contexts”, a Guidance Note that provides examples and a list of resources to implement conflict-sensitive programmes, and a Reflection Tool to support the design, implementation, and evaluation of education programmes. The pack articulates strategies to ensure that conflict-prevention is integrated into education policies and programmes so as to prevent the development of new conflicts in the future.
At the end of the symposium, participants endorsed a declaration expressing their shared commitment to ensure that education in conflict-affected contexts supports stabilization, peace-building processes, and the prevention of violence. The Declaration encourages participants to implement and disseminate the INEE Guiding Principles on Integrating Conflict Sensitivity in Education Policies and Programs and other tools.
The symposium was followed by a narrative concert by Peter Yarrow, best known as part of the 1960s folk group Peter, Paul, and Mary. Peter Yarrow shared the work his foundation, Operation Respect, is doing to help develop empathy and solidarity among young people around the world for the prevention of violence.
Photo 1: Children from the Central African Republic, who were displaced by an attack on their village, attend class at a bush school near the Chadian border. ©UNHCR / H. Caux
Photo 2: From Left to right: Ministers of Education from Palestine, Liberia and Mali, and Khalil Mahshi, Director of IIEP. ©IIEP