Education and Armed Conflict in Sudan and South Sudan: The Role of Teachers in Conflict Resolution and Peace Building

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Anders Breidlid
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This article discusses the relationship between education and armed conflict in Sudan and South Sudan, and particularly the role of teachers in peace and reconciliation efforts. The periods covered are the North-South civil war from 1955 to 2005, the interim period between 2005 and 2011 with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and the current civil war in South Sudan which started two years after South Sudan’s independence in 2013.

The article shows that teachers are not always promoters of peace and reconciliation, and that their teaching in class to a large extent is context-dependent. The teachers in the Islamic schools during the first civil war had few options but to teach according to the Islamic curriculum and thus cemented the self-Other dichotomy between the Northerners and the Southerners in the conflict-ridden country. Moreover, the article shows that the teachers in the liberation areas in the South during the first civil war chose deliberately a confrontation strategy against their oppressors from the North that coincided with the resistance war.

In the civil war inside South Sudan from 2013 a different teaching pattern emerged where the teachers discussed openly the atrocities of the North during the first civil war, but applied an avoidance strategy in class when teaching about the civil war inside the South. It was perceived to be less of a dilemma to teach contemporary history without touching upon domestic conflict and ethnic rivalry than to teach about conflicts in the South which seriously undermined any idea of social cohesion. Undoubtedly, the teachers felt strongly that it was necessary to treat history teaching carefully, and that there is a fine line between what should and should not be told. There was a perception among teachers that debating the domestic civil war might cause unrest and conflict in class whereas any discussion of the South-North war would not since very few, if any of the students had any allegiance to the North and the Islamic discourse. The article thus raises the question of the relationship between the teachers’ solutions to these dilemmas and education’s role in conflict situations.
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