IOE - Faculty of Education and Society


A school in Madagascar by Milijaona Randrianarivelojisoa


Literature Review on Education and Peacebuilding

Dr Tejendra Pherali and Dr Alexandra Lewis presented findings of global literature review on education, conflict and peacebuilding.


The primary purpose of this review was to inform research and teaching on education, conflict and peace building at the IPCS of the University of Hargeisa, Somaliland, and more broadly in the Horn of Africa.


The presentation focused on the following key themes:

  1. theoretical and conceptual analyses of peacebuilding education
  2. evidence on the role of education in promoting peace and social transformation in conflict-affected contexts
  3. key existing academic courses on education, conflict and peace building, and
  4. research on the role of education in peace building and social transformation in the Somali contexts.


The review identified relevant literature that focused on the historical context of Somali conflict and the impact of civil unrest on Somali education, as well as current interactions between education and peace in Somaliland. This work was situated in a broader context of theories and philosophies of education and peacebuilding practice.

The review found that while the notion of 'peace building' was introduced in 1975 by John Galtung in his pivotal text on Three Approaches to Peace: Peacekeeping, Peacemaking, and Peacebuilding: it really came into the mainstream peace and development discourse in the 1990s. Education and conflict as a field of practice emerged after the Graca Machel's report (1996) on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, which significantly influenced humanitarian and development programming in subsequent years.

Emerging from this period, the UNICEF report by Bush and Saltarelli (2000) on The Two Faces of Education in Conflict raised critical questions about the contentious role of education in ethnic conflict and subsequent works (Smith and Vaux, 2003; Seitz, 2004; Buckland, 2004; Davies, 2004; Harber, 2004; Dupuy, 2008; Save the Children, 2009; UNESCO, 2011) played an important role in establishing the subfield of education and conflict.

More recently, education is perceived as an important tool for building peace in conflict-affected societies through expanding human capital as well as promoting stability, social development and nation building. However, there is a lack of evidence that can empirically demonstrate the measurable impact of education on peacebuilding.

Education and conflict: research themes

It was also highlighted that the existing research in the field of education and conflict can be categorised in three main themes:

  1. The impact of physical violence on education (for instance, in countries such as, Columbia, Syria, Afghanistan, Nepal and Nigeria, education is attacked by armed groups and armed forces where school buildings, staff and students are caught in conflict).
  2. The impact of education as a tool for radicalization or reproduction of elitism and inequalities that - biased planning of education can serve as an active driver of conflict (i.e. through the marginalisation of communities, the teaching of contentious readings of history, or the othering of social groups).
  3. Drawing upon Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970), education is also researched as a tool for liberation and social transformation. Popular education and social justice movements underpin the philosophy of liberation through critical consciousness. Some scholars argue that peacebuilding education should therefore aim to address inequalities, recognize diverse identities and facilitate inclusive participation in decision-making (Novelli et al, 2015; Fraser, 2005).

Education in emergencies: training programmes

The presenters also noted that there are a range of training programmes focusing on education in emergencies.

Humanitarian agencies such as Save the Children, Norwegian Refugee Council, War Child, UNICEF, UNHCR have a broad range of professional development training in the area of education in emergencies. UN agencies such as IIEP also work closely with Inter-Agency Network for Education in Emergencies to offer professional development programmes for practitioners and educational officers in countries affected by conflict and other emergencies.

In recent years, the number of universities that offer academic courses in conflict and education is also increasing. These courses concentrate on various themes such as:

  • educational governance and political economy
  • education in emergencies
  • education and refugee issues
  • education, conflict and fragility and politics
  • education and conflict.

Most of these courses are provided mainly at the postgraduate level and generally deal with the following themes:

  • interactions between education and armed conflict
  • the impact of conflict on children
  • the positioning of education within socio-political, cultural and historical context
  • the delivery of education in humanitarian emergencies, and
  • the role of education in state building, peacebuilding and social transformation.

Dr Pherali and Dr Lewis pointed out that a peacebuilding education programme at IPCS should focus on teaching, research and critical scholarly dialogues that explore the role of higher education in maintaining long term stability and peace not only within Somaliland but also in the South Central Zone and Puntland, as well as in Ethiopia and Kenya.