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Keeping the Bar High: Achieving Quality Education in Conflict Contexts

Wed, March 28, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Hilton Reforma, Floor: 2nd Floor, Don Diego 4 Section A

Group Submission Type: Panel Session


Conflict settings require additional and improved inputs and strategies to answer their specific and different needs. Research and policies from the North continuously produce models and approaches aiming to answer childrens’ needs. At the same time, constraints existing in the South, especially in conflict settings, often lead to fewer inputs or expectations in various areas, for example:
- Discount instructional approaches and materials are designed (eg: The shift from the original theory of accelerated learning, focusing on efficient learning and teaching methodologies to the revised Accelerated Learning Profile for Conflict Settings described by USAID in its AEP literature review)
- Main results of programs are not assessed properly (eg: Results in resilience, cohesion, tolerance, and well-being are measured only by outputs but not by outcomes; pedagogical results are measured through final ALP students’ evaluation but transfer and retention are not documented)
- Collaboration with government officers and local authorities is reduced (eg: Ministry of Education officers are not deeply involved because they are seen as actors for social division)

A delicate balance must be found between ambition and pragmatism, in order to achieve significant results. This panel aims to describe the balance found by the Mali Education Recovery Support Activity (ERSA) and the results achieved. Based on that, participants will be able to discuss about how to fund, design, and implement more ambitious activities.

The Education Recovery Support Activity was launched after almost 4 years of violence and 2 years of occupation of the entire Northern Mali by separatist and jihadist movements. The occupation resulted in significant violence against the populations and the closing of schools. The activity’s principal objective is to increase equitable access to education for children and youth. For the first intervention group, children aged 8-14, ERSA is offering an Accelerated Learning Program, over two years, to allow children to (re)-enter formal school in grade four or six.

In late 2015, six months after the project launched, the ERSA conducted a Rapid Education and Risk Assessment (RERA) to inform the project’s implementation strategies. It provided unique findings on the context of conflict:
- Vast inequalities in access to security and social services, and especially access to quality education;
- These injustices were often seen by youth as a legitimate reason to take arms;
- Ethnic tensions were explicit,
- Grievances and mistrust towards NGOs and local authorities were unanimous
- Children and their families but girls and women in particular, had been seriously affected by the conflict.
Lastly, it highlighted that schools were considered unsafe places, where children do not learn.

Facing such constraints, ERSA decided to provide more, combine high-quality instructional inputs and strategies for resilience, and not to revise expectations. ERSA reviewed its process to select and mobilize intervention communities and its work with various local actors. ERSA redesigned its ALP curriculum that now includes a complete curriculum of Living-together and the approach of the caring classroom. The activity’s M&E system was reviewed accordingly, combining a rigorous protocol of evaluation and transfer of ALP students to school and a set of tools and protocols measuring children’s resilience, living-together, safety and well-being.

USAID (2016). Accelerated Education Programs in Crisis and Conflict: Building Evidence and Learning, November 2016, Reading & Access.
Ricard, M., & Kamber–Kilicci, M. (1995). Children’s empathic response to emotional complexity. International journal of behavioral Development, 18, 211-225.
Torrance, H. P. (1974). Torrance Tests of Creative Thinking: Norms-Technical Manual. Princeton, New Jersey: Personnel Press.
Stamnes, E. (2016). Rethinking the Humanitarian-Development Nexus, Norwegian Institute of International Afairs [NUPI], Policy Brief, 24, 2016.
Gardner, H. (1999). Intelligence reframed: Multiple intelligences for the 21st century. New York: Basic Books

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