PEACE EDUCATION PROGRAM: A REPORT BY UNHCR

 



Dear friends:

This piece was written by Pamela Baxter of the United
Nations High Commission for Refugees and excerpted
from the October 2001 edition of "Forced Migration
Review" - a publication of the Refugee Studies Centre,
University of Oxford.  Hope it will be of use to you
in your work.

Yours in Peace,

Ade. Adenekan.
Executive Director.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the UNHCR Peace Education programme in Africa,
'peace' has been defined as a comprehensive
'proactive' or 'positive' peace. It is much more than
an absence of war or violence conflict. It is a
process of developing knowledge, skills, values and
attitudes that lead to behaviour that promotes peace
and encourages conflict prevention and minimisation.

Many NGOs and agencies, including UNHCR, have
developed some sort of programme to reinforce the
concepts of peace in developing countries. Most of
these are in resource book form, where the teacher is
given ideas and activities to incorporate into the
curriculum, in developing countries, education systems
generally offer a very formal examination-oriented
syllabus; teaching and learning are reduced to
memorisation and rote learning.

While this may provide academic knowledge, it is less
likely to develop constructive attitudes or to modify
behaviours. The elements of peace education -
communication, cooperation, empathy, understanding,
emotions, problem solving, negotiation etc. are not
usually practised in many integral way.  Students
learn how to compete rather than how to cooperate. The
agenda that refugee students (in particular) learn
from home and from their previous experience in a
violent society is to solve problems through violence.

Moreover, there tends to be a strong cultural bias
towards responsibility belonging primarily to the
elders or leaders; within a refugee setting, however,
traditional problem-solving approaches break down.
There is nothing to take the place of traditional
methods except peace education.

INTRODUCING PEACE EDUCATION PROGRAMMES:

Following participatory assessments involving all
segments of the refugee community in Kenyan refugee
camps in late 1997 and 1998, the initial idea of
introducing peace education into primary schools was
soon extended - at their request - to include
communities at large. The programme has since been
replicated in seven other African countries with
enthusiastic response from both the refugee and
returnee populations.

The school component was first developed as a resource
book but this was felt to be ineffective, as the
teachers are often under-trained and the  rigid
syllabus make it more difficult for them to
effectively integrate a special topic into their
normal teaching load. As a result, the school
component was re-designed as a series of activities
covering 14 concept areas in a format that allows it
to be used as a separate subject within the
curriculum.

It develops the concepts in the same way that more
traditional subjects are developed with a gradual
increase in the complexity of the concept to match the
child's development. The philosophy of the community
programme strongly emphasises outreach to the entire
community to avoid the traditional (and often very
limiting) idea of 'trickle down' where only community
leaders are trained, on the assumption that they will
then pass on to the communities what they have
learned.

Indeed practical experience shows that:
(a) community leaders do not always pass on what they
have learned
(b) (b) the same small group of people have access to
all types of training offered to the refugee
communities with very little perceived outcome or
change in behaviour; and
(c) (c) fragmentation of the communities in many
refugee situations means that leaders do not have the
same power and authority that they may have had
traditionally, especially when these leaders are
'chosen' by UNHCR or the implementing partners.

In order then to reach a cross-section of the
community, it was decided to use 1:10 ratio for
impact. This is based on the assumption that every
person who graduates from the community programme has
a contact circle of the people and can, through the
behaviour, affect the attitudes of these people.
However, not all graduates change their behaviour. If
it is assumed that only 50% of graduates will change
their behaviour and talk to people about the skills
they have acquired, then it will take 20,000 graduates
to change the views of a refugee population of
100,000.

Both the school and community programmes are
interactive and activity-oriented so that participants
have a chance to internalise the necessary attitudes;
a change in behaviour is then more likely. The school
programme comprises a series of activities to develop
the concepts necessary for peaceful and constructive
behaviour, with almost no theory or academic approach.
The community programme is discussion and activity
oriented as adults usually have the concepts
associated with peace but their skills are not
generally refined. This programme consists of a 10 or
12 day workshop with follow-up meetings to deal with
issues raised by the participants or with current
problems in the camps.

The same philosophy has been used in the training of
teachers (for the school programme) and the
facilitators (for the community programme). There are
several 'phases' of training to help the trainees
develop the concepts themselves as well as developing
the required teaching skills. Both teachers and
facilitators are perceived as role models in the
refugee situation and it is therefore important that
they have adequate training and time to develop the
concepts themselves.


REVIEW OF THE PR0GRAMME:

In Kenya, the current programme reaches 42,000
children each week in the refugee camps, with
structured lessons on aspects of peace. In addition,
more than 9,000 youth and adults have graduated from
the community programme since its inception. However,
constant movements (resettlement and repatriation)
mean that the 1:10 principle has not yet had the
desired effect.

In Uganda, Guinea, Ethiopia, northwest Somalia and
Democratic Republic of Congo, initial training
workshops have been implemented and materials
distributed to those implementing the programme. More
than 680 staff and opinion makers in the refugee
communities have undertaken these workshops in these
countries. All of these programmes have been started
between 2000 and 2001. In Liberia, more than 200,000
children have access to peace education programmes and
almost 100 staff of implementing partners and refugee
leaders have undertaken facilitator training so that
the programme can be integrated into ongoing
programmes. There is a full range of materials now
available for countries to implement the programme,
avaiable in English, French and Somali.

Porgrammes such as peace education do need a constant
monitoring and careful planning. Before development of
the programme there were two levels of research
undertaken. The first was to conduct a baseline survey
so that there would be something to measure against in
terms of attitude change after implementation. The
second was to work very closely with a wide range of
refugee to determine what should be in the programme.

At initial meetings in countries where there has been
no pilot approach, it has not been necessary to
conduct the research as it is accepted that the
programme has been developed with and for the refugee
communities in East Africa. (Interestingly, it is
totally accepted in West Africa with no modifications
culturally, although some were anticipated.

LESSON 1

Community work has to start from within: it cannot be
imposed from the outside. One of the reasons for the
success of this programme with the refugee communities
is that they 'own' the programme because they were
involved in its design. (This is true not only for the
refugees in Kenya where the piolot programme was
developed but in all the places of implementation
because the initial workshops require the refugees'
discussion and involvement.)

It is essential that the workshops are facilitated in
a collaborative  way, utilising the skills and wisdom
of the participants and building trust. In one
workshop series, where the facilitator, though very
committed, tended to 'preach' peace education, an
evaluation comment was made that people needed time to
think and discuss for themselves rather than be told.




WHAT COULD WE HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

Both teachers and facilitators are trained in the
philosophy, methodology and content of the peace
education programme. Those working in the programme,
supervising and administering, should have the same
sills, behaviours and attitudes that the programme is
trying to instil. However, we cannot build capacity as
quickly as the programme is being implemented. There
are really only two choices: either a slower
implementation to enable staff involved to inernalise
the philosophy and apply it in all aspects of their
life (for most of us, a very long-term prospect); or
the route we followed of allowing people to grow with
the programme (reinforcred by frequent training
workshops and support monitoring.)

LESSON 2

The programme as a pilot in Kenya was open to a range
of problems common to pilot initiatives. Pilot
programmes traditionally have access to funding not
open to mainstream programmes so that it is always an
additional project and therefore often marginalised.
If attempts are made to integrate it, it is often seen
as 'taking over' an on-going programme.  In some
situations, it may even become invisible and can be
neither monitored nor evaluated.  A separate pilot
programme is very difficult to transfer from pilot
phase to mainstream.

An extended pilot phase means that everybody concerned
- refugees and staff - assume that the 'special'
situation will always exist and they will resist the
changes necessary for mainstreaming. The peace
education programme suffered from marginalisation and,
because components were created in response to demand,
there was insufficient integration with existing
programmes (e.g. teacher training or on-going
community programmes.)

What could we have done differently?

Even though implementing partner staff and UNHCR staff
were invited to workshops and trainings, this was only
partially successful, as there was no responsibility
or ownership with these staff members. One of the
great successes of this programme is the ownership
expressed by the refugees themselves but perhaps that
came at the cost of ownership by those responsible for
implementing the programmes. In countries where the
programme is simply being implemented rather than
piloted, these problems do not exist as UNHCR simply
offers the materials, training (if required) and
support to establish the programme.

There is a philosophical bias in the material that is
sometimes at odds with attitudes of implementation in
the field.  The UNHCR Peace Education programme is
about sharing knowledge and taking responsibility -
the essence that peace belongs to every person and
every person has the responsibility to be peaceful.
The reality in the field is that some people working
with refugees (and some refugees themselves) do not
view peace in this way.

Some consider obedience to be all-important and that a
clear hierarchy is more important than increasing a
knowledge base. The problem with this is that it
depends on honourable leadership and a stable social
situation: things that are often not available in a
refugee situation.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

What could we have done differently?

Given that the refugees who have completed the course (including most
community leaders) prefer the approach in the course and in fact have
claimed that it is closer to their traditional methods of problems solving
(a consensus approach), perhaps there is nothing different to be done.  This
is a broader problem than the implementation of peace education.

The main focus of all humanitarian workers is to implement life-sustaining
activities. When there is an extended refugee situation, it becomes
important to nurture the people in more ways than providing food and
shelter.  But this is not well understood and we have a tendency to think
for the refugees and so we do not listen effectively, we do not communicate
clearly and we 'pass' on the problem rather than working through to a
solution.

In fact, we do many of the things that Peace Education teaches people not to
do! Perhaps if more work had been undertaken with the staff of both UNHCR
and the implementing partners, this would have helped. But staff are
reluctant to give the amount of time necessary to work through the programme
and so staff workshops have tended to be about implementation of the
programme rather than working through the concept areas in the programme.

For the future (and this is happening in new countries of implementation),
staff of both UNHCR, the concerned implementation partners and governmental
officials (where appropriate) undertake a Community Workshop as the
introduction to the programme. This, combined with the offer to train
facilitators and teachers of the implementing partners, will use the lessons
learned to good effect.

LESSON 4

Ideally, peace education should not be a 'stand alone' programme. Most of
the concept areas in peace education are concepts associated with Life
Skills training and an integrated Life Skills programme would work on how to
transfer skills and knowledge from the learning situation to real life.

Given the context of refugee and returnee situations, however, it was felt
that the Peace Education programme needed to focus specifically on the
promotion of peace rather than the wider range of concepts of life skills.
Although links have been made to some areas of Life and Skills programmes,
the Peace Education programme is currently still separate but makes
extensive use of role plays and discussions of real situations to try to
teach the transfer of peace education skills to real life.

WHAT COULD WE HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

Given that this was started as a pilot to answer a specific set of needs, it
is probable that we could not have done any differently. While the ideal
would be to have an integrated Life Skills programme, the refugee
communities see peace as their greatest need. The future of the programme,
as skills and behaviours are internalised, should be an integrated approach
encompassing all the life skills.  Peace Education is not a short term or
occasional programme.  It requires a consistent programme to build and
reinforce skills that will serve people all their lives.

PS. Pamela Baxter, the author, has worked in emergency education in refugee
situations in Africa for nearly ten years with time also in Bosnia and
Cambodia. The views contained in this article are hers and not necessarily
those of the UNHCR.  Have you any views to share like Pamela's, please do
not hesitate to forward them! - Ade.


With kind regard.

Ade. Adenekan.
<*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*><*>
Pan-African Reconciliation Council &
African Centre for Peace Education
PO Box 9354 Marina,
Lagos City 101221,
Nigeria.

Tel: (234-1)773-1742  Fax: +1-208-379-9324
E-mail: afripax@hotmail.com
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Web site: www.peace.ca/africa.htm