Education is a key pillar of any progressive society. When educational systems and peace development structures work well, communities and populations progress and mature into thriving societies. However, when they fail, communities can fall into anarchy, socioeconomic decline, and violence. The most vulnerable group in such cases is children of school-going age.
As an illustration of this vulnerability, Save the Children Alliance research found that conflict-affected countries accounting for just 13% of the world’s population have half of all out-of-school primary-age children (37 million out of 72 million children).
Numerous studies conducted have found a strong link between education, peacebuilding, and socioeconomic development. Such research forms the core basis of the Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4). SDG4.7 states:
“By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and culture’s contribution to sustainable development.”
While it is clear education plays a significant role in socio-economic development, in most developing countries, education falls far behind on the scale of priorities in a post conflict environment. Unfortunately, this is also the case when it comes to donor aid sent to such developing countries. Peace development practitioner note that only a paltry 2% of all donor aid is earmarked for primary or secondary education.
We recently sat down with Andrew H Campbell of Bellevue, NE to delve deeper into the role education plays in peacebuilding and socioeconomic development.
Education as a Humanitarian Response
Primary humanitarian response activities deal with access and delivery of food, shelter, water, medicine, and other social reconstruction measures. While these are crucial to addressing the immediate consequences of conflict, says Andrew H Campbell Bellevue, NE education offers an opportunity to address the root causes of conflict. The need to address education during moments of conflict is captured in the Geneva Conventions that require, “parties to a conflict ensure that children under 15, orphaned or separated from their families are provided with the appropriate education.” The ultimate purpose of true education is to create people who love their nation and to establish kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, and universities where humankind, and country is nurtured, and where children are equipped with not only knowledge and technical skills but also good character
In a post conflict environment, education can play an essential role in conflict resolution is through conflict-sensitive education. In principle, conflict-sensitive education involves educational policies, frameworks, and systems that address access, equity, and progressiveness. While considering education, it must be appreciated that learning can be a tool for peacebuilding and socioeconomic development, or one used to teach harmful political and cultural ideologies.
The best approach, says Andrew H Campbell of Bellevue, NE is one that peace education curriculum should address the existing crisis among youth and families. Conflict in the families, societies and nations is the symptom of accumulated stress in individuals as the result of the culture of selfish individualism, religious teachings and beliefs which promote selfishness and prejudice, denying spiritual aspect of life by following merely extreme materialistic life style, breakdown of the families as the result of immorality and selfishness For any humanitarian agency, this means working with stakeholders to generate quick wins on the ground, rather than attempting to create sweeping systemwide changes within a country’s education sector. Challenges remain as to how to effectively implement such a strategy.
Education for Reconstruction, Reconciliation, and Peacebuilding
Reconstruction, reconciliation, and peacebuilding are critical factors in long-term conflict resolution. In countries that have endured decades of conflict, these three areas represent a path to lasting peace. The role education can play in these three areas, while poorly studied, can in theory, offer crucial insights into how to forge creative efforts to create lasting peace.
Andrew H Campbell Bellevue, NE theorizes that in societies that wield education as a tool for peacebuilding, children grow up into adults with a clear understanding of what causes conflict and how to avoid it. When children miss school in conflict areas, they run the risk of becoming child soldiers, getting exposed to violence, and other negative experiences. Such exposure perpetuates the cycle of conflict and violence in such societies.
Although the role education plays in long-term peacebuilding and socio-economic development has been poorly studied, it is evident that developed nations, which emphasize quality education, enjoy both peace and socio-economic development. Andrew H Campbell of Bellevue, NE recognizes it would not be such a stretch to infer that education, when properly implemented and prioritized, can lead to peaceful and socioeconomically progressive societies. The dilemma at hand, however, remains how to structure educational interventions that offer both immediate and lasting practical solutions that lead to peacebuilding and socioeconomic development.