In this blog post, part of the NORRAG Blog Series on the Role of Quality Education in Building Just and Sustainable Peace, Maryam Danburam looks at the integration of value-based curricula into education systems, focusing on their contribution to peace building efforts in conflict zones. In the case of Nigeria, the civil society organisation Neem Foundation designs value-based curricula built on honesty, integrity, peace, tolerance, justice, unity, respect and faith, to ease communal grievances between communities and increase a sense of shared identity that fosters sustainable peace.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) highlight Quality education (SDG 4) as one of its mandates to meeting present needs in society and creating a just society for the future. One of the targets of SDG 4 is SDG 4.7 which aims to ensure that learners garner the knowledge and skills required through education to promote a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity. The many benefits of quality education have been linked to reducing poverty levels in communities and economic growth, giving individuals the ability to make good and informed decisions in different areas of their lives. Through quality education under SDG 4.7, education can be used to promote values of tolerance, respect and non-violent ways of conflict resolution. This is especially important in conflict areas where education policy and plans must consider how to integrate elements of peacebuilding into education systems to aid in sustainable development whilst providing quality education to citizens.
SDG 4.7 aims to enable learners to acquire skills and knowledge to promote sustainable development by gender equality, promotion of human rights, global citizenship and promoting a culture of peace through the education system. It looks at education through the social, humanistic and values lens, viewing quality education away from just academic attainment. Incorporating a curriculum of peace into education systems – regardless of conflict – acts as a means of building tolerance and empathy amongst students. Peace building curriculums in conflict areas must focus on its content delivery as well as applicability to the local context; such curriculums are being implemented in Turkey, Lebanon, Rwanda, and in Nigeria as discussed below. Diminishing the negative direct and indirect effects of violent conflict on children and their caregivers and enabling its potential in communities. This includes overall changes in knowledge, skill, behaviour, health or living conditions for children, adults, families, or communities.
A curricula for peace in Nigeria
The Boko Haram insurgency in North-East Nigeria has left thousands of children out-of-school, increasing their vulnerability to armed group recruitment. The most affected demographic within this affected population are girls and young women, impacted by poverty and early marriage. As a direct response to the violent extremism practiced and promoted by Boko Haram, and its wider effects, the Neem Foundation a local Nigerian CSO has designed a value-based curriculum. It focuses on using eight values – honesty, integrity, peace, tolerance, justice, unity, respect and faith- to foster a sense of shared identity in its beneficiaries. This curriculum was developed through a thematic analysis involving members of communities affected by conflict at the height of the Boko Haram insurgency to assess what values citizens should have. The involvement of key stakeholders meant that the curriculum was contextually relevant to local communities, yet broad enough to maintain its universality.
The values are embedded into schools and are used in conjunction with school curriculum, for example, Neem’s value-based curriculum has been used in two of Neem Foundation’s programmes, Lafiya Sarari, an education programme targeted at 100 out-of-school girls who were directly affected by the Boko Haram insurgency and Yellow Ribbon, a programme targeted at Children Associated by Armed Groups (CAAG). Both programmes focus on providing beneficiaries with psychosocial support because of their trauma, education support and building peace through the value-based curriculum.
The values are also expressed using creative methodologies such as art, dance and music delivery. Teachers are trained on how to infuse these values in their individual lesson plans and provide real life applicability of these values for the students, allowing open discussion and improving critical thinking. Evaluations of these interventions suggest that students have an improved level of critical thinking as well as lower vulnerability to violent extremism. The success of this curriculum lies in its the use of creative mediums such as drama, art and sports to foster a sense of identity in these beneficiaries makes it easier for the values taught to resonate with them. Given the size of the sample population, more research is required to access the wider application of this work and its potential impact.
This curriculum has also been used in other Neem Foundation programming such as “Second Chance Education- Spotlight Initiative” funded by UN women. This programme provides women who are victims of Sexual and Gender based violence with education in Northern Nigeria as well as trauma counselling and livelihood skills, giving them a second chance at life. As a sustainability strategy, Neem Foundation has also trained over 1000 teachers in Borno state, Nigeria in collaboration with the State government on our teaching methodology and values based pedagogy to ensure that our peacebuilding curriculum has a wider reach in conflict zones.
Whilst peace curriculums and programmes such as Neem Foundations Lafiya Sarari and Yellow suggest there is potential to creating change, to move beyond the classroom it is important that such these programmes are representative of the communities its beneficiaries belong to. To achieve sustainable peace, children, young people, as well as parents and community members must be involved in the design and implementation of such programmes.
Doing this can help ease communal grievances between communities and increase a sense of shared identity and help foster sustainable peace.
Maryam Danburam is a psychology and education programme officer at Neem Foundation with experience in trauma-sensitive programming, delivering psychological interventions in conflict settings and improving educational outcomes in emergency and non-emergency situations. She can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
Image credit: Neem Foundation
 International Alert, 2016. TEACHING PEACE, BUILDING RESILIENCE ASSESSING THE IMPACT OF PEACE EDUCATION FOR YOUNG SYRIANS. [online] London: International Alert. Available at: https://www.international-alert.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Syria-Peace-Education-Impact-EN-2016.pdf.
 UNESCO, 2011. The Hidden crisis: armed conflict and education; EFA global monitoring report, 2011. [online] Paris, France: UNESCO. Available at: https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000190743.
 Neem Foundation, 2018. How Well? A Summative Evaluation Of A Creative Education Project Among Girls Affected By Boko Haram Insurgency In North-eastern Nigeria. [online] Available at: <https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zXfeqwMmXdXaIEwq7uygijXvOEZFv4C7/view> [Accessed 20 August 2022].