Why peace education is crucial in Africa

Today, September 21, marks the celebration of the International Day of Peace. Let’s review the work on the ADEA’s Inter-Country Quality Node on Peace Education
Dorah Kitala (standing) listens to learners’ discussions in Montseraddo (Liberia) on how to prevent violence in schools. CREDIT: ICQN-PE

This is the 9th blog post published in 2018 as part of the collaborative effort launched in 2017 between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

Peace is the concept of harmony, lack of conflict and freedom from fear of violence.

This concept can be found in several key documents adopted by the international community such as the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) or the Agenda 2063 for the African continent. SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions calls for: ‘promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, providing access to justice for all and building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982. In 2001 by unanimous vote, the General Assembly established September 21 as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.

The theme this year is “The Right to Peace - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70”. It celebrates the 70th anniversary of this milestone document, the most translated in the world –it is available in more than 500 languages.

Education is the key to end conflicts

In recent years, the issue of peace building has become a global concern, brought on by the escalation of internal conflicts, civil wars and more troubling forms of violence like violent extremism.

Conflicts, whatever their causes, produce social, emotional and mental devastation on individuals and communities, and destroy infrastructure in affected countries. In addition, the number of refugees and internally displaced people in need of shelter, protection and support has been increasing at an alarming rate.

Social collapse, political instability and endemic poverty are often contributors to, as well as consequences of, conflicts and fragility. The vulnerable in society are particularly affected. This therefore calls for psychosocial skills for redress and rehabilitation.

Since Africa is adversely affected by war, there is an urgent need to provide support and care to vulnerable, displaced and marginalized people and end the untold suffering because of violence and revenge. Renowned educator Maria Montessori said:

“Establishing peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war”. 

Education therefore plays a key role in ending the cycle of violence in the world. A survivor of the Rwanda genocide said; “When war broke out, education was the only thing I fled with.”

What is the ADEA’s ICQN on Peace Education?

The Inter-Country Quality Node on Peace Education (ICQN-PE) was formed as a result of a Ministerial Conference hosted by ADEA in June 2004 for post conflict or fragile states. The conference produced a communiqué signed by 20 African countries.

It committed Ministers of Education to "utilize their respective education systems as agencies and forces for peace-building, conflict prevention, conflict resolution and nation building".

To support this vision for the role of education in building, keeping and promoting peace, ADEA formed an Inter-Country Quality Node focused on peace education. The raison d'être of this Quality Node was reaffirmed by a second meeting organized for the African Ministers of Education by ADEA in Istanbul in April 2009, on the occasion of the Global Consultation of the Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE).

In September 2009, the first meeting of the ICQN-PE was organized and funded by ADEA in collaboration with the Ministry of Education of Kenya that still leads and hosts this critical ICQN. Since then, the ICQN-PE has strengthened its coordination and developed a strategic plan within the broader strategy of ADEA.

The key role of the ICQN on Peace Education in Africa

The ICQN-PE acts as a catalyst of intra-country dialogue and partnership by enabling African countries to formulate and implement peace education policies and strategies in Africa’s education systems by means of innovative, responsive and strategic partnerships with stakeholders.

Peace education is not only a means to respond to conflict and violence but also a proactive measure to building and keeping peace.

Recognizing the transformational power of education to impact on these issues as well as prevent them, ADEA and its partners seek to play a pivotal role in the promotion of policy dialogue, policy development and effective practices that enable more peaceful African societies.

Today the ICQN-PE is a Co-Chair of the African Union Peace and Education Cluster, together with Save the Children. In addition, the ICQN-PE has recently completed the work in Kenya and Liberia on Prevention and Management of Emerging Forms of Violence in learning institutions (PMVE).

The intervention pursued the following objectives:

  • To address the drivers of emerging forms of violence among school communities
  • To develop country-specific implementation guidelines in prevention and management of emerging forms of violence in the education sector.
  • To develop education materials for use in schools for prevention and management of emerging forms of violence in the education sector.
  • To build the capacity of schools to put in place prevention measures for emerging forms of violence in the school communities.
  • To impart knowledge and skills for prevention and management of emerging forms of violence among the learners

In Kenya and Liberia, dialogue with educators, parents and students

Key deliverables of this program included a detailed situational assessment report, national guidelines and capacity building materials. In Kenya, the intervention has already been piloted in selected schools to build their capacity to address and manage emerging forms of violence. Liberia will launch another pilot soon.

In Kenya, the Ministry of Education and the ICQN-PE coordinated the program in collaboration with Lifeskill Promoters (which developed the materials) and other actors like the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) and the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC).

The program was structured in different phases, from situational assessment and development of guidelines to training material development and a pilot program in 14 schools in seven counties. Thanks to the program a total of 145 teachers, 93 parents, 116 non-teaching staff and 289 peer educators were trained.

Through the peer educators, 6,141 learners were reached through dialogue forums. Moreover, each learner participated in a minimum of 10 dialogue forums, equipping them with skills for prevention and management of emerging forms of violence including prevention of violent extremism.

In Liberia, the Ministry of Education and the ICQN-PE coordinated the program. The African Development Associates (ADEAS), a non-governmental organization was contracted to conduct the situational assessment on emerging forms of violence.

The Youth Movement for Collective Action (YMCA) was contracted to develop training materials and capacity building of the Education officers, school administrators and peer educators. The program was carried out in 3 counties.

Through the intervention of a total of 84 education officers, school administrators and teachers were sensitized on Prevention and Management of Emerging Forms of Violence in learning institutions (PMVE) and 63 peer educators were trained. Moreover, those actors and experts that had fully implemented the program in Kenya in 2017 were sent to Monrovia, Liberia, in May 2018 to offer support in monitoring the training on PMVE. 

The way forward

In order to keep moving forward and achieving its broader objectives, the ICQN-PE will undertake further activities:

  1.  Policy dialogue with ministers of education from conflict and crisis affected countries and other relevant partners and stakeholders; 
  2. Capacity building initiatives, knowledge creation and sharing of promising practices for peace building in and through education; 
  3. Facilitation of intra-African exchanges to build a network of education actors having expertise in peace education;
  4. Consultations with civil society actors in order to draw them into the policy dialogue processes, capacity development initiatives and the intra-African network to ensure that gaps between policy and experience are addressed.

The ICQN on Peace Education will proactively continue ensuring the building of peaceful African societies through the promotion of peace, education and development as means to prevent conflicts and crises.

Lastly, as the late Kofi A. Annan, former UN Secretary General, aptly put it:

“Education is, quite simply, peace building by another name. It is the most effective form of defense spending there is. Efforts must be made to save posterity from the adverse effects of war and conflict”.

Let us, through peace education, endeavor to raise more leaders like him.