Paths towards peace – Geneva RET Conference – 12-15 December 2011 “Protecting through Education,” reads the Refugee Education Trust’s motto. Indeed, since the year 2000, the RET has committed itself to providing education and to developing self-reliance to youth facing violence, conflicts, and disasters. Consequently, the RET organised its annual Education Conference to discuss the achievements and challenges of its programmes and to sharpen its global vision. From the 12th to the 15th of December, members of both headquarters and field staff were invited to meet in Geneva to discuss and to share their best practices and results so as to provide high quality education programmes worldwide and to add value to each of the field projects.
According to the RET’s Executive Director, Zeynep Gündüz: ““Education” in its broadest sense is the medium in which the RET firstly provides protection, and then builds the skills needed by the learners to achieve self-reliance as quickly as possible. “Education” can be simply literacy and numeracy, remedial classes, vocational training, classical schooling, distance learning, training of human rights (women’s rights, children’s rights, refugee rights) and a plethora of other subjects that lay the foundation for self-reliance”.
“Thinking about “Education” in its broadest sense provides us with even more tools to create paths toward peace,” highlighted Sofyen Khalfaoui, RET Chad programme officer. In fact, the conference was of paramount importance in showing all the facets education can take in emergencies and how they all represent complementary means to achieve protection of youth. For instance, the provision of vocational training in Colombia, women’s literacy programmes in Afghanistan or the organisation of teacher training in Burundi all foster better opportunities for nurturing peaceful relationships and assisting in preventing the resurgence of conflict.
During the conference, the RET counted among its guests representatives of both the Sudanese and the Burundian Ministries of Education. As field partners in supporting the implementation of the Chad and Burundi programmes, they offered their views on how an institutional/non-governmental collaboration can impact positively on the protection of youth. While very different in nature, their actions have proved essential in creating long-term perspectives for beneficiaries. “In Burundi, while the Ministry of Education is involved in supervision efforts, the RET’s support to the Ministry takes the form of school construction or of workshops on peace to facilitate the reintegration of returnees,” explains Jean Marie Rurankiriza, the Cabinet Ministry adviser. The Sudanese Ministry of Education provides accredited exams in Chad in order to ensure the protection of refugee students and avoid their having to cross the border into Sudan to take their exams in Darfur where they are at risk of being recruited in local militias.
By the end of the conference, the staff from 16 countries represented had found, in all the statements and the ideas put forward, inspiration to implement differently some aspects of their respective projects – pushing further away the specter of vulnerability and leaving more space for protection of beneficiaries and confidence in a better world.