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Alternative Histories of Education and International Development #006 – Solaiman & Corbishley

utnvmab26 April 2021

Critical Thinking and Safe Spaces: A Dialogue  

by: Haya Solaiman and Rachael Corbishley

During the first session of the CEID Alternative Histories of Education and International Development Discussion Café, we shared some thoughts and reflections around ‘decolonising education.’ When it was suggested afterward that we write a blog to share some of these thoughts we had such mixed feelings.

On one hand, “I’m white, I grew up in the UK, only speak English, and am increasingly aware of my privilege. I’m not sure I felt comfortable writing about decolonising the curriculum as a white student. I am still not sure whether I feel comfortable about this” (Rachael).

On the other hand, “I come from Syria, a country in conflict, yet I consider myself ‘privileged’ as I can continue my education, and even pursue my studies abroad when many of my compatriots are enduring hardships back home and in the diaspora as refugees. However, when asked about decolonising education I also felt uncomfortable as the idea of censorship haunts me whenever I want to express my thoughts” (Haya).

Our contrasting backgrounds made our perspectives on decolonising education rather different. However, we both felt the need for space where we can share our critical thoughts freely and safely. Previously, our peers, Shola and Albina, talked about “creating a safe space”. They reflect that the safe space of the Discussion Café was enabled through “placing everyone at the same level … where everyone’s voices can be heard…” Here we decided to share some of our dialogue; some of our reflections, positionalities, and definitions of safe spaces in academic settings. The following text captures our conversation. We hope that these reflections will enable us to contribute to a wider discussion on safe spaces in academic settings and the hierarchies of knowledge production.

Reflecting on our own backgrounds and positions on safe spaces:

he Art of Conversation by René Magritte 1963

The Art of Conversation by René Magritte 1963

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CEID Seminar Series 2018/19

CEID Admin8 November 2018

CEID Seminar Series 2018/19

The CEID Seminar series is hosted by the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID) at the UCL Institute of Education. Initiated in the 2017/18 academic year, following the launch of the Centre in June 2017, the CEID seminar series is a forum for academics, doctoral students, practitioners and invited speakers to present and open discussion on issues, ideas and debates in the field of Education and International Development. See the full series listing here.

 

Seminar 7: Gender and Teacher Education in Nigeria, October 18th 2018

Speakers – Professor Elaine Unterhalter, UCL Institute of Education, Dr Amy North, UCL Institute of Education and Yvette Hutchinson, British Council

Chair – Professor Moses Oketch, UCL Institute of Education

Abstract – In the first CEID seminar in the 2018/19 academic year, Elaine Unterhalter and Amy North will present findings from their research in Nigeria on Gender and Teacher education in five Nigerian states. The research took place between 2014 and 2016, and was funded by the MacArthur Foundation and the British Council Nigeria. Yvette Hutchinson, British Council, completes the panel and will present on the British Council’s involvement with the project, its work in Nigeria and in teacher capacity development and gender in particular. Following the panel presentations and discussion, questions will be invited from the audience.

Watch the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okupVsuv1WM

 

Seminar 8: Violent extremism and the political economy of education in Afghanista, November 8th 2018

Speaker: Dr Tejendra Pherali, UCL Institute of Education

Chair: Professor Moses Oketch, UCL Institute of Education

Abstract

As global attention is concentrated on Islamic State (IS) activities in Syria and Iraq, IS fighters seem to be exploiting the conditions of state fragility in Afghanistan to expand their influence in several districts. It has been reported that IS has a significant dominance in 11 out of 24 districts in the eastern province of Nangarhar where, they control all aspects of community life including, education. Drawing upon qualitative interviews and focus group discussions (N=31) in Kabul and Nagarhar which is considered the IS headquarters in the region, this paper explores the multitude of ways IS is controlling educational processes in Afghanistan. We find that both state and non-state actors compete for control over education, both formal institutions as well as social and cultural discourses about learning. Unlike Taliban who have the nationalist agenda against Western interventions (of all kinds including, education), the IS approach to radicalisation seems to be much more strategic, ideologically broad and aimed at long term political gains in the form of a ‘Caliphate’. Through their brutal tactics, IS fighters influence access, contents and pedagogies to establish their Jihadist ideology, which underpins a wider religious and political justification of the ‘struggle’ against the West and production of a new generation of jihadists. Our research finds that rural communities in Afghanistan play a critical role in shaping the political terrain such as, establishing the conditions under which state sovereignty is contested, negotiated and challenged. As such, they serve the dual purpose: strengthening state authority by sustaining public services including, education; and creating a space for non-state actors to promote alternative ideologies. Finally, we argue that understanding the latter can contribute to critical reflection of the existing education policies and reclaim educational spaces for Afghanistan’s peaceful future.

Livestreaming – This session will be livestreamed via this link: https://youtu.be/wCs8cL9idcI

Access the seminar slides here: Violent extremism and political economy of education in Afghanistan – CEID Seminar 8 slides.

 

CEID Seminar 9: In service of dominant elites? Nation, Education and Peacebuilding in Post (civil) War Tajikistan, January 16th 2019

Speaker: Dr Laila Kadiwal, Fellow in Education and International Development, UCL Institute of Education

Chair: Professor Moses Oketch, UCL Institute of Education

Following the cessation of the Soviet Union over two decades ago, Tajikistan grapples with ramifications of the civil war, global geopolitics, Soviet legacies and the revival of religious and ethnolinguistic identities– all of which influence identity formation and peacebuilding through contemporary discourses around education and development in Tajikistan. This seminar presents on the ways global and local political, economic, military, social and cultural agendas intersect with people’s identities, and the ways in which these are mirrored in education, fuelling conflict. The seminar draws upon the theories of ‘discourse,’ ‘global governmentality’ and ‘new imperialism’ concerning education, to explore dominant conceptions of national identity and peacebuilding and what implications these have for normalising unequal power relations and social cohesion. With reference to Gorno-Badakhshan, an ethnolinguistic and religious minority province, the session also investigates how local communities are responding to the interrelationships of the local, national and global. The paper argues that global-national-local discourses cast populations as politically compliant and polarised global market-based citizens in a globalised authoritarian state that serves dominant global and local elite interests. Recommendations include ways forward for challenging dominant discourses and for rethinking  issues of inequities, social cohesion and sustainable peacebuilding in education policy.

Livestream – This session will be livestreamed via this link:: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v3zeD7KaUH8&feature=youtu.be Join the discussion with #CEIDSeminars

Access the seminar slides here: CEID Seminar_Jan 16_2019_Tajikistan

Dr Alexandra Lewis awarded LIDC Interdisciplinary Seed funding for research in Somalialand

CEID Admin20 December 2017

Imagining Somaliland: An investigation into the relationship between nation-building, citizenship and education in a contested space, written from a peacebuilding perspective

Dr Alexandra Lewis of the Centre of Education and International development, UCL Institute of Education, and Dr Idil Osman, SOAS Development Studies Department, have been awarded funding from the London International Development Centre (LIDC) Interdisciplinary Seed Fund for the project ‘Imagining Somaliland: An investigation into the relationship between nation-building, citizenship and education in a contested space, written from a peacebuilding perspective’. The research will investigate dynamics between citizenship, nation-building & educational provision from a peacebuilding perspective. The exploratory study will take place between January and August 2018, including fieldwork in March and April 2018.

Research project aims

In 2017, Somaliland published a new textbook on civic education for secondary school students. Although this textbook was released as part of a Somali-wide curriculum consolidation process, Somaliland retained the right in this process to develop its own education policy: their framework refers to Somaliland as a nation state, without integrating its education within any broader state system (Republic of Somaliland, 2017). One of the stated goals of the new curriculum is to promote a ‘National consciousness and unity in the minds of children at an early age and enhancement of a spirit of patriotism for Somaliland as well as a desire for its sustained integration, stability and prosperity’ (Ibid). Another goal is to assist the Somaliland people to develop ‘Skills and attitudes which foster the growth of social justice, responsibility and the value and virtues of peace’. There is a need to understand the degree to which these goals of nationalism and peacebuilding are compatible within a wider Somali educational context.

This exploratory research will investigate how nationalism and citizenship are “imagined” in Somaliland context, exploring both formal educational institutions and linked media content using Anderson’s Imagined Communities framework (1983). It will evaluate the potential for education to engage with these topics from a peacebuilding perspective. Further, it will investigate the degree to which peaceful citizenship values underpin the new curriculum, and the potential for that content to be accepted, based on the extent to which dominant public discourses, elite perspectives, media and media producers transmit compatible values of peacebuilding and citizenship.

Please contact ceid@ucl.ac.uk or Dr Alexandra Lewis a.lewis@ucl.ac.uk if you have any questions about the project.

Educational interventions for unaccompanied or separated refugee minors.

CEID Admin6 June 2017

STUDENT BLOG #1 | Migration Stream | June 6, 2017

Mohamed Fouad

UASC participating in a session about hopes for the future

With more than 65 million displaced people by the end of 2015, few areas are more worthy of attention than the refugee crises hitting our world. I often say I used to have one of the most rewarding jobs there was. Working in education for refugees in Egypt for the past years, I got in contact with thousands of refugees hailing from more than 20 countries. Still, closest to my heart was the time I worked with UASCs and through this post I would like to share a few parts of this personal experience through an unreferenced post.

UASCs is an abbreviation commonly used for unaccompanied or separated refugee minors. Children separated from their parents and families because of conflict, population displacement or natural disasters are among the most vulnerable cases. Separated from those closest to them, these children have lost the care and protection of their families in the turmoil, just when they most needed them. They face abuse and exploitation, and their very survival most of the times is threatened. They often have to assume adult responsibilities, such as protecting and caring for younger sisters and brothers. Children and adolescents who have lost all that is familiar – home, family, friends, stability – are potent symbols of the dramatic impact of humanitarian crises on individual lives. By definition, un-accompanied minors are those children who have been separated from both parents and other relatives and are not being cared for by an adult who, by law or custom, is responsible for doing so. As for separated children, they are those separated from both parents, or from their previous legal or customary primary care-givers, but not necessarily from other relatives. Those may, therefore, include children accompanied by other adult family members.

Throughout the past years, I have met, designed interventions, delivered workshops, and got invited to the homes of hundreds of unaccompanied or separated refugee minors. Some minors were separated from their families during long and dangerous journeys. Many were sent alone with traffickers and smugglers by parents desperate to deliver their children to safe havens. Others escaped on their own or in groups after witnessing the capture or loss of their parents to violent conflict. The stories were horrifying but they were even worse coming out from children. One would think that going through these tragic events would render all UASCs in need for serious psychological interventions. However, diagnosis actually showed that only a minority needed that after attending psychosocial support sessions.

I wanted to use this space to stress more on the importance of a participatory approach in planning educational interventions especially when it comes to UASCs. Sure, the word “participatory” gets tossed around a lot in development and planners might go through all their checklists designed to ensure the inclusion of all stakeholders in the planning process. However, if we perceive children to be completely helpless, traumatized and in need of direction, it can definitely affect our judgment. I cannot generalize, but for me, UASCs coming from Ethiopia with no resources, no Arabic or English language skills residing in hostile conditions in the slums of Egypt; an Arabic speaking country, were the most resilient and resourceful human beings I’ve ever met.

Are Accelerated Learning Programs (ALP) the most suitable for UASC? Will vocational trainings solve some of their problems? Can Refugee Community Schools (RCS) help them through informal curricula? Is it possible for them to attend public schools in an unwelcoming environment? I believe such resilient children are equipped to have the main voice in answering the questions that affect their future. I am glad to see that some agencies are starting to follow a more empowering approach when planning educational interventions for UASCs but as you might know, a gap seems to always exist between policy and practice.

I enjoyed discussing these issues with my peers, and other experts, at the CEID Launch symposium on Thursday, June 15th.

Mohamed Fouad

20170607-Fouad

Mohamed has extensive work experience as a Child Protection Officer with Catholic Relief Services, and is a student on the MA Education and International Development (EID) programme at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE).