The predominant image on youth is negative, meaning that they are often seen as actors for violence. Much research has tended to focus on the role of youth in violence promotion. Youth are often neglected in post-conflict reconstruction activities since it is not clear whothey are. Definitions of youth are context dependent. The trend in research is increasingly on the need to target youth since their capacities can easily be turned to advantage the society instead. Since youth are seen as dynamic and open, they have potential to have a role both in violence promotion and in peace building. If they are provided with opportunities to socioeconomic development, the literature argues that they can transform their roles and becomeactors in peace building.
The field research took place in Burundi in October 2011. The country has gone through a twelve yearlong civil war that ended in 2005. Today’s youth grew up during the war. Many of them missed out on education because they had to flee their homes. As a result of missedopportunities and traumatic experiences, there are many youth who struggle to reintegrate into communities and to socio-economic development. A consequence is that the transition toadulthood is put on hold and they stay longer in the youth-hood stage. Therefore, this study focuses on older youth.
The purpose of this study was twofold. First, it sought to find out what the potential is for youth to act as peace builders in post-conflict Burundi. Secondly, and mainly, this study aimed to discover the importance of education in shaping young peace builders. Three groups of youth with different educational backgrounds were compared in order to find out if and how education makes a difference. The data was collected through qualitative interviews so that the perceptions of youth were emphasized, which is an important element in peace building.
This study concludes that the potential of youth as peace builders is present in post-conflict Burundi. However, the roles of youth are dependent upon access to education. Different types and levels of education shape different actors in peace building depending on how the youth benefit from the education that is provided to them.