Study Tour to Japan for African Educators: Building Bridges for Teacher Development and Education for Peace

‘Is our education system preparing young people for peace?’ asks Charles Mwaniki, Kenya’s Assistant Director for Basic Education. This is one of the hundreds of penetrating queries, discussion points and comments posed during the Japan Study Tour of UNESCO-IICBA’s Teacher Training and Development for Peacebuilding in the Horn of Africa and Surrounding Countries project, supported by the government of Japan. Between 2-9 August 2017, 18 policy makers, teacher trainers, and secondary school teachers from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Uganda traveled to Japan to undergo training and participate in discussions in Tokyo and Hiroshima.

H.E. Estifanos with Eritrean participants, ©UNESCO-IICBA

At Japan’s International Cooperation Agency (JICA), participants learned about its development work and discussed education and peace challenges in Africa with His Excellency, the Honorable Estifanos, Ambassador of the State of Eritrea to Japan, JICA SVP Kato and JICA staff. Participants also attended trainings at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MeXT) on safe schools and inclusive education. Following a lecture and Q&A with Mr. Matsuura, the former Director General of UNESCO about the organization’s history and Africa’s role in meeting the 2030 SDGs, participants were honored to hold a discussion with high-level Japan parliament members who offered their valuable time, encouragement and thoughts.

Study Tour Participants meet with Japanese Parliament members 3 August 2017, Photo ©UNESCO-IICBA

Trainings at Sophia University, Hiroshima University’s Center for the Study of International Cooperation in Education (CICE), and UNITAR deepened participants’ understanding and cemented lessons from Japan to take back with them. For instance, Mohamed Said Abdi, a lecturer at Somali National University indicated that making peace education compulsory, as it is in Hiroshima, would be something he would now advocate for in Somalia.

Attending the Peace Memorial Ceremony in tribute of the victims of the atomic bomb and visiting the Peace Memorial Park and Museum had a profound impact on the participants who were horrified and humbled. As they learned about the of the loss of life and long-lasting trauma, the reason for teacher training for peace building could not have been more evident. Speaking with former principal Nakayma who shared the school-bus conceptual model of improving a school (with teachers as the engine) and visiting the Fukuromachi school museum was evidence of the resilience of the Japanese people. It was learning experiences such as these that they discussed at the public reporting session at the University of Tokyo on 9 August 2017.

Study Tour Participants at Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, Photo ©UNESCO-IICBA

Following the successful Japan Study Tour, upcoming project activities include the finalization of teacher guides and activity kits, training of trainers from 4-8 September 2017, cascading of teacher trainings in the six countries, policy dialogues with stakeholders and advocacy activities in each of the participating countries.

This initiative comes at a crucial time as conflicts, disorder, and natural disasters are severely impeding global and regional efforts to improve access to quality education while exacerbating violence and radicalizing youth. With youth making up a large percentage of the total population in the Horn of Africa and surrounding countries, lessons learned from this trip have the potential for great impact on future generations.

Read the Japan Study Tour Report