Education’s Role in (Post-) Conflict Contexts

March 18, Education’s Role in (Post-) Conflict Contexts
Research dissemination at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The IS Academie Education and International Development in cooperation with the Social Development Department – Education and Research Division (DSO/OO) (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Global Campaign for Education (GCE) Netherlands organized a research dissemination session on the 21st of March 2013 at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Hague. Please find the programme of this IS Academie EID event here.

Report of the full day – by students of the (research) master International Development Studies (IDS)

On the 18th of March 2014, International Development Studies (IDS) (research)master students of the University of Amsterdam visited the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This visit was part of the course ‘the Politics of Education, Conflict and International Development’, coordinated by Mieke Lopes Cardozo. The focus of this research dissemination, organised through a collaboration of the IS Academie and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was on education’s role in (post-)conflict contexts. The aim was to share new insights, knowledge and ideas between different actors in the field of education in relation to conflict and peacebuilding. The day started with a lecture of Yvonne Stassen and Ronald Siebes, both working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with extensive experience in the field. Subsequently, there was a network meeting were students were able to network with policy makers and members from the civil society. Afterwards, five recent graduates of the IDS master presented their research using poster presentations. The day ended with a public lecture about attacks on education by Mario Novelli from the University of Sussex. In this report, an overview of the content and the outcomes of the discussions of this day will be given.

Lecture: Dutch policy on development cooperation, security and the role of education
Lecture by Yvonne Stassen and Ronald Siebes (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Yvonne Stassen has been a diplomat for the Dutch ministry of foreign affairs for a long time. In her lecture, she gave an interesting insight in her experiences with the world of diplomacy, international interventions and the difficulties surrounding peace building, education and the role of the international society therein. It was fascinating to hear her speak from her own experience, for it placed the power of diplomats and their rYvonne Stassenole in international interventions in perspective. It gave the students a fascinating glimpse of the practical side of development aid.

In the second part of the lecture Ronald Siebes expanded on the issue of policy making. He highlighted the influence of the political climate, which changes every time a new government is formed. Currently, there is a policy focus on the 3D approach (Defence, Diplomacy and Development). Besides this, areas of expertise such as water, agriculture and SRHR are being highlighted within the Dutch development agenda. As a consequence, education is almost entirely skipped and will disappear from the agenda in 2015. It is important to take these developments in the Dutch political climate into account when looking at policy decisions and judging what is happening on the ground.

Network lunch
After the lecture, a network lunch was organized. This gave the students an excellent opportunity to introduce themselves to graduated students, staff from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and representatives from Dutch civil society. They got an insight in the work of different organisations active in the field. The students could share their interests, discuss their fieldwork research projects and seek for possible collaborations with these organizations. A strong aspect of this network lunch was the fact that there were representatives of multiple important organizations present, as for example the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, UNICEF, EDUKANS and War Child. Because everyone wore name tags, people could immediately talk to the persons of their interest.             Network Lunch2

Presentations of graduated students
After the network lunch, the attendants were divided into small groups and attended five small presentations of recent graduates of the master IDS. The content of all five presentations will be discussed below.

Thesis presentation Lisa Stumpel
Lisa StumpelLisa Stumpel did her research in Aceh, Indonesia. Her master thesis was about the perceptions on gender justice in secondary education in the post-conflict context of Banda Aceh.In a very lively presentation, Lisa Stumpel explained her research process and the challenges she faced in the field. Her main findings were that gender is perceived as a very Western concept, and that there exists some sort of allergy against this term. Women are very proud of their Islamic background and the history of Aceh. They see former female heroines as their examples and use these stories and their religion to find inspiration on gender justice topics. Gender justice in Aceh is best described as a focus on responsibilities. In this view, the Islamic values of different roles of men and women are respected, but the modern idea of equality is acknowledged in their emphasis on the idea that everyone, men and women, has their own responsibilities towards society.  Education is acknowledged as an important site that can contribute to changes in gender issues and gender injustices.

Thesis presentation Ross Duncan
Ross Duncan’s research focused on the role of secondary school education in ethno-religious reconciliation between Muslim and Tamil communities in post-war Jaffna, Sri Lanka. His findingsRoss Duncan indicate that structural inequalities between groups are reflected and re-institutionalized through secondary education.
Working from the social justice perspective and the idea that education, depending on its nature, can either contribute to peace or fuel conflict, Ross Duncan concludes that the government should take a stronger position, and show more will to implement peace building education nationwide. Furthermore the peacebuilding education curriculum needs to widen its scope and include religion to become truly transformative and inclusive.

Thesis presentation Clayton Naylor
Clayton Naylor did research on participatory education reforms within the age of globalization, using Aceh, Indonesia Clayton Nayloras a case study. His main research questions was: To what extent does the implementation SBM in Aceh represent democratic, inclusive, and transformatory participation or to what extent does it reproduce existing power relations at multiple scales?
His results suggested that the current participatory reforms in Aceh reproduced existing power relations. This is due to the respecting of the social order by the society and the top-down nature of the implementation of the programs. Furthermore, ambiguous legal language, lack of true power divulgence and lack of commitment played a role in the reproduction of the current power structures.

Thesis Presentation Cyril Brandt
Cyril Brandt investigated the agency of teachers in the context of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). His main findings were that in the current system there are many restraining factors on teachers’ ability to provide education Cyril Brandtand for children to access education. Only a third of the teachers in the DRC is officially registered and paid by the government. The others are paid through “motivation fees” and NGO’s. Interestingly, Cyril Brandt spoke about the extra fees that parents need to pay for their children to access school (which is officially free in DRC) as motivation fees rather than corruption. This gave an interesting insight in the context teachers have to work in. Calling it corruption would have criminalized the teachers. Cyril Brandt chose not to do that.

Thesis presentation Genevieve Wenger
Genevieve Wenger researched how the recent conflict in Aceh is taught in history classes in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Her main research question was: In what ways do policies and key perceptions influence secondary school history teacher’s agency to teach the recent conflict (1976 – 2005), and what is the perceived impact of their classroom pracGenny Wengertices on a lasting peace in post-conflict Banda Aceh, Indonesia?
Genevieve Wenger’s work reveals that teachers are considered to be powerful agents in the process of peacemaking by teaching children and youth about the recent conflict. However, due to restricting policies, they are not able to act out their agency to its full extent. If policies would allow for better and more teaching about the conflict, teacher’s lessons can have a greater impact on the transition to a stable peace situation in Banda Aceh.

Lecture: Attacks on Education: Modalities, Motivations and Mechanisms of Protection
Public lecture by Mario Novelli (University of Sussex)

Lecture Mario NovelliThe day ended with a public lecture by Mario Novelli, Professor at the University of Sussex. He discussed attacks on education in various countries, using the recently published UNESCO Education Under Attack Report (2014). This report presents the results of a global study on threats and attacks against educational institutions, educational actors and students in 2009 – 2013. The key finding is that attacks on education have increased in comparison with earlier Education Under Attack Reports (UNESCO 2007, 2010). However, it is not clear if this results from better registration of incidents and growing attention to the problem, or because the number of incidents has actually risen.
Novelli stressed the need for advocacy for the education under attack problems, on the local, national and international level, and the importance of a better monitoring of attacks on schools and strategies for the protection of schools. Furthermore, he pleaded for more funds to research the dynamics of attacks on education. Lastly, he emphasized that transparency on which attacks get reported and investigated and which not is very important.

After Mario Novelli’s lecture, there was some time for discussion and debate, in which interesting questions related to education and peace building came up.

ConclusionApart from the attendance of two very interesting and relevant lectures, this day enabled the students to get an insight in how policy makers and the civil society representatives think about the subject of education and conflict. Students also got the opportunity to experienced how lobbying works. It was interesting and helpful for their research to see what type of questions were posed by the people form the ministry and the civil society organizations in relation to the presentations of the students. Furthermore it provided the students with an interesting glimpse of their future, and the ability to practice networking in an friendly and enabling environment. All in all the visit was an excellent contribution to the course and the IDS master as a whole.

Poster presentations

Recently graduated master students of the IDS programme of the UvA presented their work. All their research activities included fieldwork, and relate to education in (post-) conflict contexts. Please find their posters below.


For more information, please contact Mariëlle Le Mat, research assistant of the IS Academie EID,