Early Childhood Education and Peacebuilding in Areas of ongoing Conflict and in Refugee Settlements in Western Uganda

The PBEA in Uganda programme is based on an overarching theory of change of how desired peacebuilding and other programming outcomes can be achieved, whether in postconflict settings, areas of ongoing conflict, or in the emergency context of a refugee settlement. The Uganda Country Office (UCO) PBEA Outcome 4, which aims to increase the number of schools and ECD centers in target post-conflict districts providing conflict sensitive education that adheres to basic standards, predicts that: If conflict sensitive education that promotes peace is delivered equitably as a peace dividend in parts of Uganda which are recovering from conflict, then grievances and perceptions of neglect which have historically fueled conflict in that region will be reduced.

Building up education provision in conflict affected areas offers a means to build state legitimacy. Ensuring that schools are conflict sensitive provides an opportunity to empower teachers and administrators to discuss grievances and find productive outlets for issues raised in the community. Western Uganda (particularly the centre-west portion of that region) provides an appropriate setting for examining the relevance of this ToC and the expected higher level results due to the violent inter-communal attacks carried out in early July 2014, just over a month before this study, and the high levels of fear and insecurity that continue to be felt by communities. This case study examines the role of Early Childhood Education (ECD) in these contexts of violent conflict and humanitarian action.

The Rwenzori Mountain or Rwenzururu subregion of Western Uganda sits aside the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), its ethnic groups found on either side of the international frontier. The sub-region has a history of conflict, either of local origin (struggles over land, the jurisdiction of traditional Kingdoms, or most recently a possible future oil windfall) or spilling over from regional wars in the DRC and Rwanda. In July 2014, violence broke out simultaneously in 13 separate attacks across Bundibugyo, Ntoroko and Kasese districts between members of the Bakonjo, Bamba and Basongoro. Leaving some 90 dead and hundreds in police custody, the attacks showed the deep-seated tensions in the sub-region over access to livelihoods and natural resources and the role and prerogatives of traditional kingdoms. Western Uganda has also been the home for waves of refugees fleeing conflict in Rwanda, and more recently Eastern DRC.

Fifty thousand people from DRC are currently sheltered in the Rwamwanja Refugee Settlement, in Kamwenge district east of Kasese, a site that was reopened on 7 April 2012 by the GoU to deal with influxes of refugees from the volatile security situation that prevailed from July 2011 (UNHCR Uganda 2014; see section 1.2 below). The situation is still unstable in Eastern DRC, preventing these refugees from returning home in large numbers. At the same time, their continued presence and the government’s provision of land and assistance to them, is a bone of contention with local Ugandan communities.

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