ECCN sponsored four representatives to attend a conflict sensitive education (CSE) Training of Trainers (TOT) featuring INEE’s Conflict Sensitive Education Pack. Trainers met in Amman, Jordan, for a four-day session, on July 10-13, 2017. They walked through the training pack and developed plans on how to further disseminate CSE practices and principles with their colleagues and implementing partners. The TOT is part of a series of activities that ECCN is supporting on enabling conflict sensitivity in education programming. ECCN’s Training Specialist Tracy Cordner and UNHCR’s Education and Youth Focal Point in Aleppo, Syria, Mohammad Kordi, were among the four sponsored attendees, and ECCN followed up with them to see what they learned from their experience and how they are applying these lessons in their work.
ECCN: Please share your experience in attending the CSE TOT in Amman.
It was truly remarkable. The first thing that struck me was the sheer diversity in the room. Not only that, but their roles within education were also quite varied, from on-the-ground folks all the way up to policy makers and government officials. I had the most unlikely conversations with people engaged in work around some of the highest profile conflicts in the world. Their positivity and perspective have stayed with me and continue to make me think.
During the training, the great benefit was to bring together many education specialists from around the world and share their experiences together. Everyone was able to discuss and shed light on the most important issues they face in their work and share practices in CSE when providing educational services that can contribute to conflict mitigation or contribute to the peace-building efforts.
ECCN: What were the most valuable takeaways from the TOT?
For me, the biggest takeaway was the need for conflict sensitivity in all levels of programming. It was sobering to hear real stories from the field of well-intentioned programs that ultimately caused harm to the very people they were trying to benefit. This happens more often than I knew, more often probably than most of us know. Another key lesson I came away with was that this kind of harm is mostly preventable. It does take effort and it requires gathering the team together for more meetings and long discussions, but it became clear during the training that such effort is not only worth it, but necessary. The INEE materials are perfectly suited for their purpose—to bring up the questions we may not have asked due to our own implicit biases and misguided assumptions.
As a trainer, in addition to learning about detailed considerations for programming for education in crisis and conflict settings, I also carefully watched how the facilitators brought the content to life. I then pondered how we might do the same or even improve upon it during our own iteration of the Conflict Sensitive Education training for ECCN members in 2018.
Learning about the INEE minimum standards and how to apply them in the provision of services that we offer has been the most important takeaway for me from the training. After the training, when we visited Al Khafseh village, in the eastern rural area of Aleppo that was recently retaken from the Islamic State, we used the community participation standards and resource mobilization to coordinate focus group discussions and identify important skills and qualifications within the community that we can incorporate in our plans. For example, it turns out that most of the people of the village had careers and lost their jobs associated with construction, carpentry, painting, etc. during the crisis. We have been able to staff these specialized resources in our rebuilding efforts as a result, and are planning to distribute tool kits to community members to support these efforts. The training pack we reviewed in the training also enabled us to strengthen our coordination and mobilization efforts, including our plans for distributing livelihood tool kits with community support.
ECCN: How are you incorporating CSE principles and strategies in your work and your training development plans?
How do you teach the next-level thoughtfulness required of conflict sensitive education? You cannot simply tell participants, “You need to be thoughtful,” and expect something to happen. The INEE facilitators handled this challenge by staging rich interactions between diverse participants. During structured discussions, people shared so many different challenges and stories, mistakes made, lessons learned, hard pivots, and successes, with impressively fruitful results.
When I hear, “Oh, I see, I never thought of that,” or “This makes so much sense now,” I know learning is happening. I can’t tell you how many times such connections were made right in front of my eyes. I credit this success to INEE’s stellar preparation and reflective instructional approach, but also very much to the energy and enthusiasm bought by the participants. I hope to build upon and draw on these types of instructional approaches in the trainings we are currently developing, including an online module on CSE that we hope to launch later this year.
ECCN understands the need for conflict sensitive education and fully supports it. I’m pleased to announce that we will be offering training on conflict sensitivity to ECCN members in 2018 as part of our workplan. I will have to employ a large amount of my own thoughtfulness as I put this training together, and I look forward to benefiting from the energy and experience of those who wish to join me.
I have been applying lessons from the training week across the projects I am involved with. In the Dir Hafer village, we are incorporating the community participation standards from INEE’s CSE pack in the school rehabilitation process. We have used the strategies from the training to involve the community in decision-making, such as holding a focus group discussion involving all members of the community (women and youth and teachers included).
Additionally, since my training experience, I have been seeing the need for our partners to learn about the INEE minimum standards and how to deliver services by practicing conflict sensitivity. I have asked for funding to facilitate two training sessions during 2017 on CSE and the minimum standards to UNHCR’s partners, and we hope to include these as a requirement for all education staff in our future agreements with the partners. We hope this will help to familiarize practitioners more with the concept of INEE and CSE, and to consider these concepts during the implementation of educational activities.