Spotlight on the ADEA’s Inter-Country Quality Node on Peace Education

Today, September 21, marks the celebration of the International Day of Peace.

Students go home after school. Nyeri Primary School, Nyeri County, Kenya. CREDIT: GPE/Kelley Lynch

This post is the nineth in a blog series published in 2019 in the context of a collaboration between the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the Global Partnership  for Education (GPE).

The Global Education 2030 Agenda, which is a part of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, identifies education as an essential tool to achieving all of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through Goal 4 which aims to: “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.”  

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.”

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on September 21. This day was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly. Two decades later, in 2001, the General Assembly unanimously voted to designate the day as a period of non-violence and cease-fire.

This day is devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The 2019 theme for the International Day of Peace is “Climate Action for Peace’’ which draws attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world.

Education is the key to conflict resolution and peace building

Some parts of Africa are replete with violent conflicts caused by various factors:

  • historical factors such as neo-colonialism and poor governance
  • ethnic-identity
  • scarcity of resources such as water and land for pasture
  • marginalization and exclusion of certain groups
  • ideologically-motivated factors such as violent extremism.

One of the most visible consequences of such violence is poverty. This keeps the region in a prolonged, cyclical conflict trap. To this end, capacity building and sensitization of all stakeholders through education in prevention and management of violence is important. Collaboration in prevention of environmental degradation leading to better production of crop and shared resources is key.

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 and fragile states. At the end of the conference, a final communiqué was signed by the 20 African countries involved in the deliberations.

The communiqué 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, which would have “Peace Education” as its core focus. The formation and raison d'être of this ICQN 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. The theme for this workshop was "Education as an Agency for Fostering Peace, Integration and Partnerships".

Since then, the ICQN on Peace Education 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 through innovative, responsive and strategic partnerships with stakeholders.

Peace education is not only a means to respond to conflict and violence but also the process and practice of developing non-violent skills and promoting peaceful attitudes and learning to pinpoint the challenges of achieving peace.

Peace building is defined as the practice and process of building or re-building new relationships or transforming existing ones. This process addresses justice and human rights issues, among others.

It is therefore important for peace builders to acquire certain competencies such as self-awareness; critical thinking; mediation and negotiation skills; nurturing of values (i.e. respect, empathy, responsibility, reconciliation and forgiveness); interpersonal and intercultural collaboration: and so forth.

Recognizing the transformational power of education to impart these values as well as prevent and manage conflict, ADEA and its partners seek through the ICQN on Peace Education to play a pivotal role in the promotion of policy dialogue, policy development and effective practices that enable more peaceful African societies.

In 2018, Save the Children commissioned a continental study on the protection of education from attacks and military use in Africa. This was done in partnership with the African Union Commission and ADEA, in the implementation of the Peace and Education Cluster of the African Union Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA).

In 2019, a workshop was organized to validate the study involving all the countries in which it was conducted. Other participants included representatives of the ministries of education, defense, CESA cluster coordinators, international organizations and UN system who have directly or indirectly contributed or are well placed to influence the implementation of the findings.

The overall goal of the workshop was for the research report to be validated by AU member states and other stakeholders and be adopted as an Africa Union document.

Next steps of the ICQN-PE

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 in the African continent.

To this end, the ICQN will not only foster policy dialogue activities on peace education by facilitating intra-African knowledge sharing on peace education but also implement safe school declaration and guidelines.  

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “It is not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it… And it is not enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

This means that efforts must be made to save posterity from the adverse effects of war and conflict and also save humanity from the adverse effects of climate change and community, national and international conflict”.