DISCLAIMER: this post may be a little boring for some readers. Not much blog-worthy adventuring has happened since my last post, so this post will be dedicated to detailing what I have been up to at the office. If this sounds interesting, allez-y. Otherwise, go check out Cait’s newest blog post – it’s really fun!

A I mentioned in the last post, the culminating project of my internship was the development and facilitation of two, multi-day workshops on role of teachers in the prevention of violent extremism through education (PVE-E). More specifically, teacher training pedagogy and curricular tools for PVE-E. These events were jointly organized with the International Institute for Capacity Building in Africa (IICBA) and the Organisation International de la Francophonie (OIF), and involved a diverse array of education stakeholders from across West Africa and the Sahel, including representatives from ministries of education, teacher trainers, experts and multilateral organizations working primarily in non-formal and informal educational contexts. Between the two workshops, around 60 participants attended from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and The Gambia.

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Making my workshop debut. I was in charge of assisting with everything logistical, from IT to interpreting and notetaking.

The two workshops proceeded over a full week in a combination of plenary and group sessions. These sessions were structured around six thematic focuses: (1) Existing PVE-E tools and reflections since previous workshops; (2) building teacher capacities for the classroom; (3) strengthening PVE-E capacities of educators beyond the classroom; (4) learning from the past for the prevention of future extremism; (5) collaboration and sharing knowledge and; (6) conclusions and a way forward.

On the first day of workshop sessions, several PVE-E tools and guides were introduced by participating organizations, including UNESCO’s Teachers’ Guide on managing classroom discussions in relation to PVE and two newly published teachers’ guides on combatting anti-Semitism and facilitating media information literacy in educational settings. The afternoon’s activities addressed building teacher capacities in the context of formal education, including managing personal biases, peer-to-peer exchanges, managing polemic discussions in the classroom and engendering respect for student diversity and difficulties.

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Participants hard at work during group sessions.

The second day of sessions saw facilitators shift the focus to PVE-E beyond the formal classroom, covering topics such as: establishing interactive links between school and community; using media and socio-educational activities to build youth resilience; diagnosing problems faced by young people struggling with violent extremism and developing approaches to support them.

During the third and final day of the workshop, participants were introduced to the Change Makers Leadership Program (CMLP), a PVE-E training program for teachers and students developed by the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre (JHGC). Tali Nates, the founder and CEO of JHGC, lead participants through a series of truncated modules from the CMLP, which emphasized using case studies from the past to promote pluralism, prevent violent extremism and strengthen leadership among learners.

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Dr. N’Doye delivering one of his masterful lectures.

At the end of the workshop, participants were treated to a synthesis of the key takeaways from the workshop prepared by former Senegalese Minister of Education, Dr. Mamadou N’doye, which highlighted the need for concrete, contextualized and multi-sectoral action plans for PVE-E. Workshop sessions concluded with an open conversation between participants and organizers concerning next steps to identify country needs concerning PVE-E, to reinforce advocacy for PVE-E amongst high-level authorities in their countries, to integrate PVE into education sector plans, curricula, and education personnel training (formal, non-formal and informal) and to further involve communities and non-formal educational actors in the implementation of PVE-E.

The second workshop shared the same theme and relative scope, but was much more focused on concrete pedagogical tools for the formal classroom, specifically the newly published IICBA guide on transformative pedagogies.

 

Ziplining and obstacle coursing in a baobab forest! More on this in the next post!

In the two weeks since the workshops, I have been working primarily on developing follow-up materials to the workshop, including reports, thank you letters, evaluations, etc…. Once all of those documents are finished, my next major tasks will be assisting with a PVE conference on the current security situation in the Lake Chad Basin region and developing my very own PVE-related proposal for Burkina Faso.

For those of you who are wondering, the Lake Chad Basin is currently grappling with a complex humanitarian emergency in which nearly 11 million people are in urgent need of assistance in north-eastern Nigeria, Cameroon’s Far North, western Chad and south-east Niger. The eight-year-long Boko Haram insurgency has pushed vast areas surrounding Lake Chad, the region’s most important source of freshwater and livelihoods, towards the brink of disaster. Some 2.3 million people have been uprooted from their homes and 7.2 million are severely food insecure and have limited or no access to water, healthcare or education. Military operations have restored relative security in the main towns across the four countries, but the level of insecurity remains high, especially for the most vulnerable groups, including women and children.

As for the Burkina Faso project, parameters are still very vague, but they basically call for a plan that responds to an emergency situation in the Sahel region through education. At present, it’s looking likely that I will end up writing a proposal for a youth vocational education program for the districts of Burkina Faso most vulnerable to the growing threat of violent extremism. We shall see!

Next up – my end-of-internship blog post!