The Role of Education in Peacebuilding: Case Study – Nepal
The Nepal Case Study is part of a UNICEF Research project on Education and Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Contexts. A period of desk study was followed by nearly a month in Nepal during August 2011 that included interviews in four districts in the plains as well as extensive consultation in Kathmandu. Nepal experienced nationwide conflict from 1996 to 2006 when a Maoist political party decided to break out of mainstream politics and launch a ‘people's war'. Most of the fighting took place in rural areas. Although schools were not a primary target for the combatants and generally continued to operate, they were subjected to violent interventions, such as attacks on teachers suspected of links with the opposing side, recruitment of students by the Maoists and large-scale assaults by the government forces when they suspected that Maoist activity was taking place in a school.In this report we examine three key areas in which UNICEF has sought to contribute to peacebuilding:
- The education sector in general: UNICEF has been an active member of the sector-wide approach (SWAp) to education, promoting the introduction of peace education into the curriculum;
- Assistance for the reintegration of child soldiers; and
- Promotion of Schools as Zones of Peace (SZOP).
Findings may be summarized as follows:
- UNICEF makes only a very modest financial contribution to the education SWAp (less than 1 per cent of total DP inputs), but currently chairs the DP group and carries weight far above its financial contribution;
- Overall, it may be observed that UNICEF did not fully recognize or anticipate the political aspects of its activities, and this may raise a wider question as to whether UNICEF adequately recognizes that post-conflict environments are likely to be highly political because of the rapid processes of realignment and political competition that must take place in such circumstances;
There is much for UNICEF to draw on globally from its experience with this concept [School as Zones of Peace] in Nepal. But specific aspects of Nepal must be taken into account when repeating the approach elsewhere.
- No thorough research has been undertaken to assess the impact of SZOP and claims of success by those directly involved in the project must be treated with caution.
- Nevertheless, there is widespread acceptance that SZOP brought about a reduced level of violence and enabled schools to remain open, at least in some cases.
- The adoption by the Government of Nepal of the SZOP principle/programme at first sight seems a very positive step, but there is a danger that the neutrality on which it is based could be compromised or lost. (Excerpts from Executive Summary, pp: 5-10)