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Centre for Education and International Development (CEID), IOE


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Archive for the 'Conflict and Education' Category

Demystifying Doctoral Research Fieldwork – “Expecting the Unexpected”

By CEID Blogger, on 12 February 2024

By Vanessa Ozawa

I feel so tired, physically and mentally, I am seriously tired. I dream of the day I finish all these stressful days… November 22, 2022, 18:20, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Field journal

Regardless of the level of planning and preparation, for doctoral scholars with limited resources, notably time and budget, the fieldwork realities can take an emotional toll. However, those struggles are rarely discussed in the increasingly competitive neoliberal academic space. In this blog piece, I reflect on my experiences as a doctoral scholar, to demystify doctoral fieldwork and call for more humane scholarly space, where researchers’ struggles and vulnerability are more empathically recognised as much as their research originality and innovations.

My research explores the educational experiences of Uzbekistani youth and the formation of their national identities. More precisely, it aims to understand how formal educational processes, including their experiences at school environments, shape their national identities through the intersectional lens, accounting for their ethnicity, gender and religion as key national markers. Given the complexity around formations of national identity and cultural diversity in Uzbekistani society, the research adopted an ethnographically informed qualitative approach, involving participant observation, oral history interviews, photo-elicitation and focus group discussions with Uzbekistani youth, mainly enrolled at public universities in Tashkent, aged from 18 to 20, who had just completed their compulsory school education and whose memories of schools were still relatively fresh. In my mind, my fieldwork plan was impeccable at that time, however, once I started my fieldwork, it did not take too long before my confidence was quickly disenchanted. Notwithstanding that, I had gained several prior fieldwork experiences in Uzbekistan both as a Masters student at UCL Institute of Education and then as a development practitioner associated with an international agency, which had enabled me to appreciate the unpredictable nature of fieldwork and its “messiness”. However, challenges I faced for my fieldwork as a doctoral student this time were beyond my expectations that I could have fathomed with my prior experiences.

The dichotomous understanding of researcher’s positionality as insider or outsider often disregards researchers’ complex identities and the messiness of the research setting. More importantly, the power dimensions in social relations in research contexts, and researcher’s positionalities need to be understood as situational, reciprocal, and fluid. For me, as an international researcher, conducting the study in a non-native setting triggered a myriad of methodological, conceptual, ethical and logistical difficulties and dilemmas. Whilst any researcher would inevitably experience difficulties unique to each context, foreign and local scholars face divergent advantages and disadvantages during fieldwork due to their different or similar cultural and social obligations, expectations and familiarity with the research context. Once I was exposed to the realities of the fieldwork, for the first time, I truly understood the meaning of a “research proposal”, which had made through the viva stage. As the fieldwork began, I realised that I was better prepared for methodological hurdles than for the practical difficulties. Throughout my four-month long fieldwork in Uzbekistan, I kept a daily digital journal, a personal space where I could candidly reveal my thoughts, reflections, and emotions. Among those, the most recurrent topics included the struggles to recruit an interpreter and participants and how to retain them. The repeated failure to even find a reliable interpreter and loss of initial few weeks in this process led to concerns about completing the fieldwork within the timeframe. The recruitment of participants was also delayed as I had to completely rely on gatekeepers and employ a snowball sampling method. Moreover, the selected participants often canceled meetings at the last minute or dropped out altogether after a couple meetings, a common struggle in an ethnographic study with youth, causing huge stress at times. This was coupled by the anxiety of exceeding my budget for fieldwork. As soon as I started working with my interpreter, who not only helped me navigate social and cultural complexities but also introduced me to some participants, I was finally able to regain my excitement and enthusiasm though my concerns, struggles and frustrations continued. What I learnt from this phase of ordeal was the importance of flexibility, patience, resilience and persistence when plans fail, and one has to adapt to the unpredicted situation in the field.

Whilst these were not the only hurdles I encountered during my fieldwork, and all researchers are likely to get tormented by similar issues, being a non-resident foreigner, female and basic speaker of the languages of the research context amplified my challenges. I also did not have the luxury to extend my stay beyond the four-month period due to limited finances which were all consumed in international flights, interpreter’s salary, accommodation, gifts for gatekeepers and bills for occasional restaurant and café with my participants. It was also the time when there was an influx of Russians in Uzbekistan to avoid Russian government’s “partial mobilization” policy to involve in the Ukrainian conflict. This meant that accommodation rents in Tashkent suddenly skyrocketed. My hostel unexpectedly decided to raise accommodation charges, which I had to dispute with the hostel manager. I almost had to sign a new lease for an apartment outside Tashkent through random people I had met on the day of crisis. Even though I agreed to a renegotiated price, I needed to borrow cash from my local acquittances since the hostel accepted payment only with local bank cards or cash which I did not have. Although these incidents might seem private logistical matters and not academic enough to be considered within the scholarly discussions, these were very much part of my fieldwork which were simply underrealised during the pre-fieldwork phase. After a few months in the field, I was simply exhausted, realising how underprepared I was for these practical eventualities and my “readiness” for the fieldwork was simply not good enough.

Now, that I have completed my fieldwork and am approaching the final stage of my doctoral journey, I sometimes get asked what my advice would be for those who are preparing for fieldwork. I always answer with the phrase – “expecting the unexpected”. Whilst the quote seems obvious, we often tend to forget it in the research planning processes as mostly, the focus is on scholarly debates on theories, methodologies, ethics and methods. For most doctoral students, the approved research proposal, for which we spend months and years, acts upon our mind like the ultimate guidebook for fieldwork until one faces the chaos of the fieldwork adventures. Nevertheless, although often not discussed enough, the bumpy realities of fieldwork are a path that no one can avoid; it is an integral part of research, which mentally and emotionally affects the researcher and research processes, exacerbating the adverse effects of already isolating doctoral journey. Although all scholarly work is usually built upon unspoken hardships of the scholars, there are rarely any spaces to reveal and share the personal stories of hurdles and struggles. What is expected of early career researchers is their display of flawless intellectual capacities and high-quality research approaches and findings, within the competitive neoliberal space of the higher education community. However, the realities of fieldwork, particularly in social sciences and education research, are never “neutral nor hygienic”, as it is embedded “within networks of power”, inevitably eliciting a range of “unexpected”, influencing and altering research processes.

Hence, academic space needs to be more open to humanistic debates where scholars, especially early career researchers, can safely share their personal experiences relating to their fieldwork without fear of being judged and labelled as “incompetent”. As education researchers, we should embrace the messiness of human interactions and our own vulnerabilities thus, the experiences of the fieldwork. Otherwise, how can we advocate and mobilise for a just society as a scholarly community?

Vanessa Ozawa (vanessa.ozawa@nu.edu.kz) is a doctoral scholar at Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan.

The Taliban’s on-going attack on women’s rights in Afghanistan

By CEID Blogger, on 6 July 2023

By Shuhra Koofi, MA Education and International Development


This blog serves as a continuation of my previous article, where I shed light on the distressing university ban imposed by the Taliban on Afghan women. In this piece, I will delve deeper into the restrictive measures placed on women in Afghanistan and highlight the grave risks associated with recognizing the Taliban’s de-facto government. I start by examining the far-reaching implications of these oppressive policies on women’s rights and human rights as a whole. Then, I discuss a virtual exhibition that highlights the challenges faced by Afghan women in accessing education and their resilient spirit in the face of adversity. Urgent international attention and action are needed to support their ongoing struggle. To this end, my UCL MA classmates have created a virtual exhibition titled “Women’s Education and Resistance in Afghanistan”.

The Taliban’s Violation of Women’s Rights

Since their takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban rulers have implemented policies that have resulted in widespread violations of human rights, particularly against women and girls. One of the most extreme policies imposed by the Taliban was the pronouncement that girls would not be allowed to attend schools beyond secondary education. This policy, along with subsequent edicts, such as the women’s university ban in December 2022 and the prohibition of women from working in national and international organizations, including the United Nations, has significantly limited women’s rights and access to education.

The ban on Afghan women working for the UN has been widely condemned by human rights organizations and the United Nations itself. The United Nations Security Council has expressed its deep concern on this ban, stating that it will have a negative and severe impact on UN aid operations throughout the country, hindering the delivery of life-saving assistance and basic services to the most vulnerable populations.

Furthermore, the Taliban has enforced strict regulations to police women’s behaviour in public, requiring them to cover their faces and prohibiting them from traveling long distances alone. These regulations place the responsibility for the enforcement of these measures squarely on male family members, meaning that a male “guardian” can be fined and then imprisoned if a female member of his family goes outside of their homes without a male accompanying them. If the guilty male guardian is a  Government employee, then they must be fired for the woman’s transgressions. Women working in the media have also been forced to cover their faces while reporting the news via TV screens, further limiting their freedom of expression.

The consequences of these oppressive policies have been severe and violent, with reports of widespread mistreatment of women. Women have been barred from attending amusement parks, public baths, gyms, and sports clubs, and are not allowed to work in NGO offices. Moreover, women have been completely excluded from public office and the judiciary since the Taliban’s takeover.

China’s Collaboration with the Taliban

In contrast to efforts to protect women’s rights, reports have emerged in recent months about China’s expanding collaboration with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Taliban commanders visited China in July 2021 and met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, who commended the Taliban for “restoring order” in Afghanistan and expressed optimism about their role in the country’s peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction. According to Al Jazeera, the Taliban’s spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid announced on August 25, 2021, that China has pledged to continue its economic assistance with Afghanistan. The consequences of China’s collaboration with the Taliban raise concerns on several fronts.

  1. Legitimising the Taliban’s authority: China risks legitimising the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan by cooperating with the Taliban and offering strong economic support. This could lead to other countries and international organisations following suit, further isolating Afghan civil society and weakening efforts to advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in the country.
  2. Providing the Taliban with the means to pursue its oppressive policies: The Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan was distinguished by grave violations of human rights, notably against women and girls. By providing economic assistance to the Taliban, China risks helping them to continue their policies and further deteriorate the country’s already poor humanitarian situation.
  3. Undermining regional stability: China’s relationship with the Taliban has the potential to undermine regional stability by escalating tensions with other neighbouring nations, particularly India and the United States, both of whom have expressed concerns about China’s expanding influence in the region.
  4. Encouraging terrorism: Concerns have been raised that China’s interaction with the Taliban may indirectly encourage terrorism, considering the Taliban’s history of offering safe havens to terrorist organisations such as Al-Qaeda and the symbolic safety and political gravitas that China’s support lends them. This could have far-reaching consequences for regional and global security.

China’s example has been replicated in Russia, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, which have all also recognized the Taliban rule, compounding these risks. The impacts on women’s rights will be long-lasting. The Taliban’s history of enforcing extreme interpretations of Islamic law, and twisting these to suppress women’s rights and freedoms, is well-known. By recognizing the Taliban’s de-facto government, China and the rest of these countries risk normalizing and legitimizing the oppressive policies of the Taliban, undermining efforts to advance democracy, human rights, and the rule of law in Afghanistan.

Resistance and International Support

Amidst the challenges faced by Afghan women, there have been inspiring examples of resistance and international support. Women’s rights activists are urging the international community to hold the Taliban accountable for their actions and to support efforts to protect Afghan women’s rights and freedoms. Online platforms and educational initiatives have been established to provide education to Afghan girls who are barred from attending school. For instance, the BBC has launched an education initiative called “Dars” for Afghan children, especially girls, whose secondary education has been halted by the Taliban. This initiative provides educational content through a dedicated BBC News Afghanistan channel.

Additionally, a virtual exhibition titled “Women’s Education and Resistance in Afghanistan” has been created by UCL MA classmates, including myself. This exhibition aims at highlighting the importance of education for women in Afghanistan and the challenges they face. It explores the history of women’s education in the country, the impact of conflict, and the inspiring stories of women who have fought for their right to learn and succeed.

I encourage you to visit this exhibition on the topic of women’s education and resistance in Afghanistan and to consider the nature, value and significance of the messaging. Let’s come together to show our support for the empowerment of women and further raise awareness of the challenges they face.


The Taliban’s de-facto government in Afghanistan has systematically attacked women’s rights and human rights as a whole. Their oppressive policies have significantly limited women’s education and work opportunities, further restricting their freedom and independence. The collaboration between China and the Taliban raises concerns about the legitimization of the Taliban’s rule, the perpetuation of oppressive policies, and regional stability. However, amidst these challenges, there is growing resistance and international support for Afghan women, with initiatives aimed at providing education and raising awareness about their plight. It is essential for the international community to take urgent action to protect Afghan women’s rights and empower them to build a brighter future.


London Review of Education Article: Libyan teachers as transitionalist pragmatists

By CEID Blogger, on 29 June 2023

Conceptualising a path out of the peacebuilding narrative in conflict-affected contexts

By Reem Ben Giaber

I often question whether my research fits in with the work of other colleagues at the Centre for Education and International Development (CEID). I am from Libya and Germany – the former is often defined as a ‘conflict-affected’ country, and I am trying to explore teachers’ perceptions there of the roles that schools play in turbulent societies like Libya. Yet the questions I ask could be asked of any teachers in any country so, epistemically, I sometimes think that my research is more in the philosophy of education camp than in the education and international development camp. Or can it be both? Mindful of Gur-Ze’ev’s (2001) critique that much of peace education is driven by ‘good will’ more than ‘theoretical coherence or philosophical elaboration’ (p. 315), which leads to mainly unchallenged and unevolving practices, I propose a pragmatist philosophical approach (familiar in political science and political philosophy disciplines) as worth looking into, to see if the two camps can benefit each other. My first published article in the London Review of Education is a cautious conceptual re-examination of pragmatist philosophy in the fields of Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) and peacebuilding education. It is available [here].

The dominant analytical and programmatic frameworks used when writing about conflict-affected contexts such as Libya in Global Northern academia belong to the interdisciplinary field of PACS – an umbrella term that includes peace education (PE), critical peace education (CPE), peacebuilding education (PbE) and education and conflict  to name a few. Within PACS, education is increasingly gaining attention as a tool for building peace and developing social justice and democracy. Yet, caught in the epistemological and methodological nets their work entails (neo-colonialism, blind universalism, organisational impact metrics, white saviourism, structural violence etc), many scholars in these fields are themselves calling for a more context-specific and ground-up approach to education for peace or social justice (Bajaj, 2019; Davies, 2017; Kester & Cremin, 2017; Zembylas & Bekerman, 2013). As such, this trajectory to involve local stakeholders in thinking about the links between school and their society, brings the project back to the philosophy of education discipline, drawing upon centuries of thought and scholarship.  This is the integration, or even shift, I am proposing in my doctoral research because what is needed here is cultural criticism and transformation – a sensitive topic where one’s own positionality is significant.

My article takes a deeper look at the American philosopher John Dewey’s pragmatist approach to politics and education, and his conceptualisation of a ‘public,’ his understanding of enquiry and his views on teaching for peaceful and democratic living. When Dewey (1916) famously described democracy as not a political system, not a form of government, but as a way of living and communicating with others in our community that best allows for individual and social flourishing, he made it a cultural and pedagogical phenomenon.  This is meaningful to the field of PACS because it situates the design, inquiry and action that can be taken at the local level. For PACS projects to be effective, PACS scholars and practitioners would share their expertise as facilitators and capacity builders – not deliverers, consultants or implementers.

Throughout my paper, I argue that a pragmatist philosophy is a worthwhile pedagogical project in a challenging and unsettled context such as Libya, as it is an internal and ground-up discourse, compared to the often externally-initiated and top-down discourses of peacebuilding. I speak as an ‘adjacent and connected critic’ (Koopman, 2009), because I am both a Libyan and a German researching a problem in Libya to which I hope to find potential proposals by engaging with discourses and practices in an academic institution in the Global North. As such, to describe Libya’s socio-political situation, I prefer to use words such as ‘unsettled,’ ‘changing,’ ‘turbulent’ or ‘evolving’ rather than ‘conflict-affected.’ One reason for this is to ensure a disentanglement from PACS education frameworks that activate organisational mechanisms from fundraising to pre-packaged programmes to metrics to impact evaluation reports.  Another reason is for socio-linguistic considerations.

Speaking to Libyans, it is clear that ‘conflict-affected’ is too definitive, confining and suggestive of a state where common everyday occurrences like meeting friends in a café or taking your children to play in the park are excluded.  Libyans would not describe their society as ‘in conflict’ or ‘conflict-affected’ because that would suggest to them that there is what Galtung would call direct violence (i.e. war) all the time. What Libyans might recognise is Galtung’s structural and cultural violence and that, again, takes us to culture critical projects which can, understandably, only be initiated by Libyans. Finally, from a pragmatist perspective, ‘conflict’ and ‘peace’ are locked into a dualistic tango of end-states. We either have one or the other and this denies that both are possible at the same time and that the only way to ensure any transitional amelioration in the situation is to keep working democratically (beyond programme end dates). There is no ideal (capital P Peace or capital D democracy) or destination to be reached; there is just continuous inquiry and work to be done with an ‘end-in-view’ (Dewey, 1916) that drives action.

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

By utnvmab, on 26 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


CEID Seminar Series 2018/19

By CEID Admin, on 8 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


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

By CEID Admin, on 20 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.

By CEID Admin, on 6 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


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).