Harnessing youth and empowering teachers


A consultation and experience sharing workshop between the Horn of Africa and the Sahel countries on peace-building and the prevention of violent extremism (PVE) was held by UNESCO’s International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) at the African Union (AU) Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 22to 23May, 2018.


Aimed at sharing experiences and exploring the possibilities of peace-building and the PVE through education, this workshop also marked the end of IICBA’s "Teacher Training and Development for Peace-building in the Horn of Africa" project (the Horn of Africa project, in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda), as well as the start of its "Youth Empowerment for Peace and Resilience Building and Prevention of Violent of Extremism through Teacher Development in Sahel Countries" project (the Sahel project, in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Sudan). In her opening remarks, Dr. Yumiko Yokozeki, Director of UNESCO-IICBA, expressed her gratitude to the Government of Japan for supporting the two projects.


Experience-sharing Among 14 African Countries

The workshop generated constructive inputs and synergy for action among participants, consisting of representatives from the Ministries of Education and teacher education institutions in 14 African countries, namely: Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda. It also consisted of representatives of the AU Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology (HRST), UNESCO offices in Abuja, Bamako, Dakar, Kampala, Nairobi, Rabat and Yaoundé, UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office, and One African Child Foundation.


The Horn of Africa countries shared that the project complemented their existing peace-building efforts and supported them to go beyond its intended scope. This approach to addressing violent extremism was more systemic by improving the quality of teachers through interventions at the Teacher Training Institution (TTI) level. Initially the project was planned to train in-service and pre-service teachers at the secondary school level, but many countries scaled up to incorporate primary and tertiary educators as well as non-teaching staff and other stakeholders. Furthermore, by capacitating teachers, they demonstrated how the PVE activities can be carried out both in and outside of the classroom.


Similarly, the Sahel countries, UNESCO field offices, and UNICEF shared experiences from their concluded and/or on-going projects, which illustrated the multifaceted approach that the UN is taking to tackle violent extremism. This includes capitalizing on existing societal strengths, for instance, working with local and religious leaders, restoring the trust between teachers and students, and working across formal and non-formal education sectors. The UN interventions also put emphasis on capacity building for youth peace-builders and marginalized groups such as prisoners and women/girls to enhance their understanding on media and information literacy and other topics related to the PVE.


Youth Empowerment

Ms. Victoria Ibiwoye, Youth Representative of the SDG4 Steering Committee, represented the voices and ideas of young people at the workshop. She emphasized her experience as the head of the One African Child Foundation, a youth-led organization aiming at transforming the lives of children in low-income communities through activity-based workshops and creative learning. Ms. Ibiwoye reminded the room that children need to be not only supported but also empowered to contribute to the communities with their own solutions. The discussions that followed explored more concrete examples, reaffirmed the important role to be played by youth and teachers, and underlined the need to optimize policy and pedagogy to enhance the effectiveness of teaching and learning, without overloading teachers.


Participants also discussed how to guide young people to invest their time and potential for peace and development, and elaborated policy and educational approaches to harness young people for the PVE. To this end, they highlighted the significance of ICTs in an era where social media is an increasingly prominent platform for engagement. Some innovative solutions the Sahel countries already have in place include national funds for youth engagement, virtual universities, global citizenship education, and teacher trainings for security awareness.


Transformative Pedagogy

‘Transformative pedagogy for peace-building is a necessary learner-centered approach, and it combines critical thinking, reflection, self-awareness, ethics and meaningful action’, presented Mr. Mame Omar Diop, Senior Programme Specialist on teacher policy and development for UNESCO-IICBA. The root causes of violence across participating countries ranged from ethnic and religious conflict to political and ideological differences, from scarce resources and poverty to illiteracy and unemployment. This makes it crucial for the PVE through education to be contextually relevant. Through critical thinking and community engagement, transformative pedagogy helps teachers to produce place-based content and allows for solutions that draw on local culture for peacebuilding.


Critical thinking skills are central to the development of teachers and youth, which primarily enable them to analyze conflict objectively and promote productive and solution-seeking interaction. Therefore, students and teachers can both advocate for and challenge their environment in variety of ways.  


Next Steps

In addition to introducing transformative pedagogy into their curricula, the Sahel countries expressed their intention to take on multi-sectoral approaches to the PVE, promote collaborations among ministries and across countries, tackle root causes of conflict in their communities, and prioritize capacity development at all levels. This will be further discussed in the follow-up and planning workshop that will be held in Dakar from 28-29 June 2018.


Moving forward, at UNESCO-IICBA, we hope to continue engaging all countries in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel region and serve as a knowledge-sharing platform. Furthermore, a youth forum will be organized for empowering youth as peace-builders and advocates for the PVE. Based on the findings of needs assessment that is currently undertaken in the Sahel countries, we will develop additional study tools and training materials, including a school leadership manual with integrated concepts for leadership for peace.