The propaganda and money used to lure young people into violent extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab in East Africa, Boko Haram in Nigeria and M23 rebel group in the Democratic Republic of Congo, must be challenged with one of the humankind’s most powerful tools: Education.
Yet, with the turmoil of ongoing conflict and with the added devastation of natural disasters, poverty and attacks on educational institutions, how can access and provision of quality education for all be achieved in the Horn of Africa and surrounding regions?
There is no simple answer to this highly complex situation where each context is unique. Some are refugee-producing countries in active conflict, while others are struggling to stretch limited resources in public services like education.
One strategy involves empowering youth and guiding them to be agents of peace, as the GEM Report’s recent PEACE publication described. They can be taught practical tools for positive interactions through dialogue and collaboration, and can learn about the roots of latent and overt violence so that they are able to better respond with awareness and empathy.
With this objective in mind, the UNESCO-IICBA launched a year-long Teacher Training and Development for Peace-Building in the Horn of Africa and Surrounding Countries project in February 2017 with support from the Government of Japan.
By building the capacity of secondary-school teachers through training and development in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda, the project invests in youth, offering them alternatives to the pull of intolerance and violent extremism. The short-term goal of the project is to train 8,000 secondary school teachers across the six countries through a ToTs and cascading of teacher trainings model.
In order to kick start this project, an initial planning meeting was held in April in Nairobi, which was followed up by another meeting in June with representatives from ministries of education, educators and teacher trainers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
In August, three representatives from each of the participating countries, including secondary school teachers, will travel to Tokyo and Hiroshima in Japan for a study tour including special training and discussions at the Center for the Study of International Cooperation in Education Hiroshima University and to attend the Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6, commemorating the victims of the atomic bombs. Through this intercultural dialogue and learning experience alongside those for whom peace has come at a high price, policy actors and educators from the Horn of Africa and surrounding countries will develop another layer of understanding to bring back with them to their ministries, training institutes and classrooms.
The 2016 GEM Report showed how progress and sustainability of the overall SDG agenda are underpinned by education. In order to breakthrough persistent and seemingly endless conflict, education systems in the Horn of Africa and surrounding countries urgently need teachers that are trained to embrace the diversity of educational needs of the young people. This includes increasing youth’s capacity to challenge confrontational beliefs and to engage with others using peace-building skills. This is exactly what we hope our project will achieve.