The power of education for building peace in Africa

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ADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI/DAKAR, 1st JUNE 2016 - Ensuring equitable access to education is key in addressing the root causes of conflict and instability in Africa, stakeholders said today ahead of the Pan-African Symposium on Education, Resilience and Social Cohesion, at the United Nations Conference Centre in Addis Ababa. 

The three-day event shares evidence and best practices from UNICEF’s Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (PBEA), and the Inter-Country Quality Node (ICQN) on Peace Education, established by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA). In doing so, the Symposium will seek to assess how inclusive, equitable and innovative education policy and programmes can contribute to sustainable peace and development across the continent. Currently, three out of 10 children in Africa are living in conflict-affected settings and exposed to numerous risks.   

“The capacity of education to support children develop and thrive is well documented, however we now also know that education can prevent and reduce the impacts of conflict,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Leila Gharagozloo-Pakkala.“If the right policies and interventions are in place, together with financial investment, education can be a driving force in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.”

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 36 out of 45 countries are at medium or high risk of experiencing manmade disasters, the highest rate globally. Moreover, at least 327 million children in Sub-Saharan Africa live in fragile contexts and the majority of the estimated 29 million primary school aged children who are out of school are primarily found in fragile settings and are particularly at risk or threatened by conflict. 

“We need to reorient Africa’s education and training systems to meet the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to nurture the continent’s core values,” said Dr Martial de Paul Ikounga, African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology. “We will then promote sustainable development at the national, sub-regional and continental levels.”

The African Union Commission, under the Agenda 2063 “The Africa We Want”, envisions that by 2020 “all guns will be silent and a culture of peace and tolerance would be nurtured in Africa´s children and youth through peace.”      

Oley Dibba-Wadda, the Executive Secretary of ADEA, sees education as “a key tool against all kinds of violence” and strongly appeals to African governments to “endorse and develop integrated, peaceful, inclusive approaches and strategies that support the implementation of a comprehensive program on non-violence, tolerance and peace, especially for the young generation.”

The high-level event in Addis Ababa, which is being attended by Ministers of Education from 16 African countries, including conflict-torn states, will close with concrete recommendations on how to strengthen education sector policy and programmes in Africa to address the risks faced by children and to support sustainable peace and development across Africa. The symposium will also provide evidence to inform both donor and public funding strategies and investment priorities.

“Education can play both a protective and preventative role. In doing this, education’s power is transformative and serves as a peace dividend, reducing inequities and grievances between groups and strengthening social cohesion” said the Ethiopian Minister of Education, Ato Shiferaw Shigute.

The symposium is co-organized by the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia’s Ministry of Education, UNICEF, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), and the Inter-Country Quality Node (ICQN) on Peace Education.

Note for editors

The Peacebuilding, Education and Advocacy Programme (PBEA), or ‘Learning for Peace Programme’, is funded by the Dutch government and managed jointly by UNICEF and partner governments across Eastern and Southern Africa as well as Western and Central Africa. The initiative is now into its final year of implementation and will be closing at the end of June 2016.

About ADEA and the ICQN on Peace education

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is a network that brings together Ministries of Education, development partners and other education stakeholders to coordinate efforts aimed at creating successful and transformative education policies based on effective African leadership. ICQNs are established with the approval of the ADEA Bureau of African Ministers of Education and serve as catalysts in the process of accumulating information on innovative educational experiences and drawing from those experiences to improve country programs. The ICQN Peace education brings together African countries to share experiences and learn collaboratively on promoting peace through the education sector. 

For further information on ADEA and ICQN-PE visit:


UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.    

For further information, please contact: 

  • Thierry Delvigne-Jean
    Regional Chief of Communication (UNICEF Western and Central Africa)
    Tel: +221 77 819 2300
  • James Elder
    Regional Chief of Communication (UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa)
    Tel: +254 71558 1222
  • Wossen Mulatu
    Communication Officer (UNICEF Ethiopia)
    Tel: +251 911308483 
  • Stefano De Cupis
    Senior Communication Officer (Association for the Development of Education in Africa ADEA)
    Tel.: (+225) 2026.5559
  • Ahmedsiraj Misbah
    Acting Communications Affairs Director (Ethiopian Ministry of Education)  
    Tel: +251 91 397 7460