The UNHCR guidelines on protection and care for refugee children emphasises that “refugee children’s wellbeing is as important as their physical health (UNHCR, 1994: 38-39). The guidelines note that children have a unique psychological characteristic: their personalities and coping skills are being developed. The disruption and insecurity inherent in emergencies can harm children’s physical, intellectual, psychological, cultural and social development. That in itself is a recipe for future conflict. But is there a need to do more than feed, shelter, provide medical services and send in peace monitors in situations of emergency? Yes. The discussion in this thesis will revolve around three central themes: the impact of conflict on access and provision of education, the organisation of education policies and programmes and the relevance of peace education. The thesis will based its discussion on the ecological framework of Bronfenbrenner, the transformational concept of Dewey and the social cohesion theory of Durkheim. These approaches were chosen for their relevance in understanding the roles education plays in enhancing harmonious co-existence and nation building.
The overwhelming demographic dominance of children in all conflicts means that, most victims of warfare are also children. In an average displaced population, about one in three persons are in the age group for schooling. Thus in the UNHCR (2000) -assisted refugee overview, totalling 6.9 million, there would be a total of about 2.3 million children. This figure concurs roughly with the nearly 800,000 children recorded as beneficiaries of UNHCR-funded education programmes (UNHCR 2002). The statistic quoted suggests that one-third of refugee children in this category are enrolled. This statistic signifies continued denial of the right to education to two-third of children as provided for by international conventions (UN 1947; UN 1966; OHCHR 1989; WCEFA 1990) that enshrines education as a right. Promoting the universality of the right to education through the globalisation of corresponding human rights obligations is an unmet challenge. These and many more literatures on emergency education, documents from the World Bank, donor countries, UN organisations and NGOs involved in emergencies are used.
The right to education, irrespective of circumstances is a conventional document that is less mentioned in academia. The silence is even more pronounced when the implementation of that right involves an emergency situation. Yet education in emergency; induced or natural is vital in the rebuilding of the community. It is an investment that is affordable, realistic and achievable. A question worth asking is not how and why education should be adopted in situations of emergency and to what extend is should be considered a high priority but how education can be planned in situation of emergency. Education can not of course promise any magic solution to current problems within a country, but it can help change people’s attitudes, and thus prevent future conflicts developing into fully fledged wars. The purpose of this thesis is not just about how the process of schooling can promote social cohesion, advance knowledge, provide skills and help mitigate the effects of conflict. It is also about contributing to the debate on conflict resolution by offering insights into how issues of harmony and social justice can be readdressed through the process of schooling.
Conflict leads not just to death but also to extensive displacement and overwhelming devastation. It has been conceptualised as “development in reverse” (World Bank, 2003). It weakens social ties, threatens household survival and undermines the family’s capacity to care for its most vulnerable members: children, depriving them of opportunities which most of us consider essential for effective growth (Boyden & de Berry 2004). Reducing poverty and decreasing reliance on primary commodity exports, both of which require an effective education system, have been shown to be critical strategies for reducing the risk of conflict (Collier and Hoeffler, 2000). There is evidence to suggest that formal education can be a significant actor in reproducing many of the factors that are at the roots of most conflicts (Smith & Vaux, 2003). Developmental patterns that exacerbate inequalities, deepens poverty or undermine social cohesion through distorted curricular or discrimination may themselves contribute to the likelihood of conflict (Harber, 2004; Davies, 2004).
Are human beings inherently violent? The challenge to peace is an ancient concern, one that has preoccupied religions across the world for millennia. The results of their efforts have been decidedly mixed. John Ferguson has observed that “of the great religions Christianity and Buddhism have been the most clearly pacifist in their origins and essence.” Yet Ferguson also notes that even these religions “have been deeply involved with militarism from a fairly early stage in their history” (1978: 157). While peace has regularly been a guiding ideal in human history, it has only been actually realised in human society in a vague and rudimentary way. From Erasmus of Rotterdam (Schoeck, 1993) to Rousseau (1917) and the UN, there has been no shortage of grand political designs seeking to safeguard peace via systems of alliance and entente. But whether we regard warlike attitudes as having their origins in a more primitive natural condition characterised by the right to violence; an excuse rejected by scientists in Seville (Mack 1990) or a struggle for dominance, the only way in which we can seriously expect to modify such attitudes in the long term is by education. In “The Cosmopolitan,” Kant (1991) tells us how history teaches man to humanise his instinctive behaviour; including his aggressiveness that manifest itself in the brutality of war. But each relapse into aggression he insisted has a distinctively educative and hence corrective side to it (Beck 2003). Opposition to this concept is known to exist (Leming 1997). Even among those who support the approach that character education promotes good behaviour, it is contended that no direct link between values and education has been identified (Lockwood 1997).
Education does not cause wars, nor does it end them. It does, however, have the potential to play a significant role in reversing the damage wrought by conflict. It is at the heart of development as the most potent means of self and social transformation. It is the crucial factor that links all the items on the MDGs agenda. These links are bi-causal. Halving poverty, for example, increases resources that can be spent on health care. A country’s ability to produce and disseminate knowledge is decisive for its development. Harbison (1973) argued that a country which is unable to develop the skills and knowledge of its people and utilise them effectively in the national economy will be unable to develop anything else. While refugees and the displaced undoubtedly suffer a great deal of hardship and trauma, they also show tremendous determination to make the best out of a bad situation. Indeed, experience shows that once refugees have meet their basic needs for food, water and shelter, their primary concern is to ensure that their children can go to school. But with humanitarian needs on the rise, funding available for refugees and the displaced programmes has become progressively tighter. In many situations, this has meant that the resources for education have either declined substantially or at worst wiped out.