Uganda is exposed to the risk of conflict and disaster, through, for example, inter-ethnic disputes and natural hazards such as floods and drought. Conflict and disaster can pose a threat to the safety and well-being of learners and teachers, destroy school infrastructure, disrupt instruction, and result in teacher shortages. Uganda is also host to the third-largest refugee population in Africa. Influxes of refugees continue to test the preparedness and responsiveness of government, education institutions, and communities in districts bordering South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Although Uganda has made remarkable progress in primary and secondary school enrolment, ethnic inequalities and unmet expectations concerning the quality of education, the learning environment, and teachers’ work conditions have resulted in or exacerbated grievances and tensions.
By addressing not only the risk of conflict and disaster but also their likely impact on education and education’s potential role in either exacerbating or ameliorating disputes, Uganda’s conflict and disaster risk management (CDRM) agenda aims to strengthen conflict and disaster prevention and mitigation strategies in and through education.
This requires comprehensive government-led and participatory capacity-development strategies.
This study examines these strategies by describing lessons learned in the process of strengthening central- and district-level educational planning capacities for CDRM.
The UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning (IIEP) has supported this process in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology, and Sports (MoESTS), UNICEF Uganda, and UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO). The aim was to strengthen the capacity of national education officials to plan for crisis in and through education by contextualizing IIEP’s crisis-sensitive planning approach.
The first phase, which took a top-down approach, began in October 2014 and ended in April 2015. During this period, 150 education officials, at both central and district level, were trained to analyse the bidirectional relationship of education and conflict and disaster risk and to identify the impact of conflict and disaster on education service delivery.
Participants developed strategies for CDRM policies and programmes, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and cost and financing. The second phase, which began in November 2015, is characterized by a bottom-up approach, and involves supporting district education department (DED) officials and head teachers in two districts. Through the provision of training and technical assistance, the two districts have developed tools to self-assess and monitor the vulnerability and prevention and response capacity of schools with regard to conflict and disaster risks. Furthermore, guidance on how to develop a CDRM school plan and mechanisms to identify, prevent, and mitigate conflict and disaster was developed in a context-based and participatory manner. All activities were embedded in and informed by Uganda’s institutional and policy provisions for educational planning and disaster risk management.
The following lessons for mainstreaming CDRM in education, at both central and decentralized levels, were identified:
Combining top-down and bottom-up approaches allows for the development of a critical mass of capacity for CDRM at all levels and increases the pressure on central and district-level decision-makers to work towards a conducive policy environment and to provide adequate funding for CDRM activities. Furthermore, a participatory and highly contextualized approach helps sustain and utilize high levels of responsiveness and engagement at school/grassroots level. This is important, given the unique understanding and motivation to address vulnerabilities found at this level.
Local-level development plans can be a promising entry point for preventing and mitigating conflict and disaster risk, as can local policies such as by-laws and ordinances.
Moving from ad-hoc planning practices towards evidence-based CDRM planning requires well-developed organizational and individual capacities. Prevention and response strategies at central and decentralized levels will improve once current challenges are met. These include a dysfunctional education management information system (EMIS) at district level, the disconnect between district- and central-level data collection and analysis mechanisms, poor staffing levels, and poor data entry and processing skills among DED staff.
Effective and cost-efficient planning for preventing and mitigating the impact of conflict and disaster requires strong cross-sectoral and cross-departmental collaboration and coordination. Cross-sectoral efforts require leadership, a shift in thinking towards holistic solutions, and resources. These, however, are often underdeveloped.
Capacity-development measures must reflect an understanding of context and the factors that limit the capacities of individuals and institutions to deliver relevant and sustainable results for CDRM.
The study outlines five recommendations for the Government of Uganda and development partners for further developing capacities in CDRM in education:
• Recommendation 1: Mainstream CDRM in education through a fundamentally more decentralized capacity-development approach.
• Recommendation 2: Mainstream CDRM in Uganda’s education sector plan and programmes.
• Recommendation 3: Establish a culture of evidence-based planning by strengthening planning practices, skills, and management structures.
• Recommendation 4: Build upon and strengthen local knowledge and skills as a key factor in preventing and mitigating conflict and disaster risk.
• Recommendation 5: Increase education’s potential to prevent and mitigate risks by turning CDRM into a ‘life skill’.