Between 2005 and 2012, nearly half a million Burundians returned to their country from Tanzania after having fled as refugees during the civil wars of 1972 and 1993. In Tanzania, the language of school instruction was English and Swahili. On their return, many youths found themselves demoted to lower grades in school since they were unable to communicate fluently in French and Kirundi, Burundi’s official languages. In their communities, some youths were even labeled as “traitors” for having left the country during the civil war.
Torn between two countries
Angélique, a female returnee recalled: “When I came to school, there were some who pointed at me and said, “Look, there’s a returnee! She’s crazy! She’s a witch! She has come from Tanzania.”
In 2009, Burundi joined the East African Community, a move towards greater economic integration and perhaps, even language integration in the region. Meanwhile, many returnee youths like Angélique wonder what their identity is and try to figure out what ‘community’ means and how they can shape their future civic experiences.
To which country should their allegiance go? Tanzania, a country that provided refuge during the war and where many spent the better part of their childhood? Or Burundi, a country where their roots lie but where they also find themselves stigmatized? Or is a hybrid East African, regional identity possible? But what would that mean for teachings of a nation state and for developing civic identity?
Discuss with us!
The example of youth refugees from Burundi is part of an online discussion that the Adolescents and Youth Task Team (AYTT) at the Inter-agency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE) has initiated.
In August, Salathiel Ntakirutimana and Lauren Greubel wrote in a blog post on GPE’s Education for All Blog about Burundi’s National Youth Forum: “In Burundi youth engagement in the elections has a direct implication on the country’s peace and stability. Without prospects of education or employment young people were vulnerable to political ploys during previous election periods.” The statement hits right at the heart of the discussion.
The online series discusses conflict-sensitive education in the context of adolescents and youth programs. Two events have already taken place and discussion summaries can be accessed:
Michelle Bellino (University of Michigan School of Education), Vidur Chopra (Harvard University)
Lisa Zimmermann (Graduate Institute)
Ally Krupar (RET)
Conclusion and Post-2015 agenda
Sarah Beardmore (Global Partnership for Education)
Access to education is vital for the protection and well-being of youth
Adolescents and youths in conflict-affected situations often occupy a vulnerable position within their communities. Many may be displaced or may have lacked access to education or other skill-building opportunities throughout their lives.
Of the 74 million adolescents who do not attend any sort of formal education, 28 million live in conflict-affected places. For young people who are displaced, the nature of protracted refugee situations at an average of 17 years means that whole generations are potentially missing out on quality education and training. These factors can severely constrain the social development and livelihood opportunities of young people living in conflict situations.
The concept of conflict-sensitive education recognizes that education interventions in conflict-affected and fragile situations (one of GPE’s focus areas) are not neutral and that education can be a force for conflict or for peace depending on its context.
In crisis contexts, education and training play a critical role in creating an environment where all young people can develop a sense of purpose, gain livelihood skills and become actors for peace and stability. Post-primary schooling, vocational training programs and other education, including conflict-resolution programs, can provide alternative options for engagement and empowerment for young people affected by violence.
Increasing youths’ access to educational opportunities also has the potential to contribute to reconstruction efforts and future social stability. Yet inequality of educational opportunities or the entrenchment of social or ethnic prejudices in school curricula are often seen as contributing factors in conflicts.
Join the next discussion on the INEE website and share your thoughts and experience. New posts will be added on Monday each week. Please join in the discussion in the comments section of each post, which will run until the following Friday.