From conflict to sustainable peace, education is key
By CEID Admin, on 9 June 2017
STUDENT BLOG #4 | Conflict and Peacebuilding Stream | June 9, 2017
By Sebastian Guanumen
“By peace we mean the capacity to transform conflicts with empathy, without violence, and creatively – a never-ending process” ~ Johan Galtung
The country where I come from, as many others around the globe, has suffered from years of internal conflict that left millions of victims. The violence in Colombia, as in any other conflict-affected context, has been a shaping factor defining the cultural, social, political and economic development of the nation. I will use this space as an opportunity to bring a brief reflexion about the role of education in peacebuilding, pa in Colombia.
More than fifty years of conflict between the state and diverse insurgent groups left the education sector unprotected and vulnerable to all kind of attacks. Constant threats to teachers, recruitment of child-soldiers, forced-displacement and minefields around schools made Colombia a very hostile environment for education, especially in remote rural areas, where the conflict was cruel and persistent. All those violent actions exacerbated issues regarding the availability of qualified teachers, the inadequate infrastructure, the limited access to education, its quality, and its capacity of adapting to children’s needs and their changing environments.
Today, just a few months after the signing of the peace agreement between the government and FARC, and ad portas of its implementation, the enormous challenge of building sustainable peace in Colombia requires the commitment of a majority of the Colombian people. In order to create the conditions for a successful peacebuilding process it is important to design, plan, and implement comprehensive and transformative policies, programmes and interventions in all sectors, including education.
The transition from conflict to sustainable peace requires not only stopping explicit violence but also transforming the different expressions of structural violence that were the ground that allowed the conflict to emerge. Historically, the Colombian education sector has suffered from direct attacks while reproducing structural inequalities. However, now, in the post-conflict context, it is time to question all those violent practices, unfair hierarchies, and unjust impositions that continue to make Colombia prone to relapse into conflict. We need to move towards an education that teaches and promotes non-violent actions, equal relationships, reflection, critical thinking, and peaceful dialogue.
Even though it is the obligation of the state to secure and guarantee the right to education to all Colombian children and young people, it might not be enough if there is not a transformation in our perspective and approach to education. In this post-conflict context, education cannot be seen just as a source of human capital, development or economic growth, it should be acknowledged as a platform able to boost processes of reconciliation, reinforce the restoration of the social fabric, recognize the cultural, ethnic and political diversity, heal the collective memory of the country, reintegrate ex-combatants and bring social transformation.
As a young student who has been always committed to social justice, peace and education I look forward to hearing more about CEID´s five topics and learning from other participants’ experiences of schooling and the end of conflict and work towards peacebuilding at the CEID Symposium on June 15, 2017 at the IoE.
Sebastian is a political scientist and current student on the MA in Educational Planning, Economics and International Development (EPEID) at the UCL Institute of Education.