Understanding Sierra Leonean and Liberian Teachers' Views on Discussing Past Wars in their Classrooms
Various curricular and textbook initiatives exist to aid in the national processes of coming to terms with past violence, often serving the political goals of the victors, sometimes supported by international transitional justice institutions. Sierra Leone and Liberia each experienced a devastating civil war during the 1990s and into the 2000s, and each is struggling to rebuild shattered education systems. In addition, each country has experienced a set of post conflict transitional justice initiatives: Truth and Reconciliation Commissions in each, and a Special Court for Sierra Leone.
Although their respective ministries of education have attempted to address peace education through UNICEF-sponsored curriculum revision processes, those efforts have not yet reached the majority of serving teachers, so a discussion of teachers' actual practices is vital. This article uses interviews with teachers in rural and urban Sierra Leone and Liberia to discuss whether and how teachers talk about past war in their classrooms; whether they think it is important to discuss past conflicts, and if so, why; and what kind of curricular support would help them better teach about the wars. The article discusses how and why teachers embrace or subvert official efforts through their classroom practices, and compares the Sierra Leone and Liberia contexts and results. This research will help us to understand teachers' own perspectives on addressing past conflict in their classrooms, and perhaps help policy-makers better implement their peace education initiatives.