Ken Rhodes has been working with FHI 360 for fifteen years and is currently the Deputy Director for Strategy and Development, Global Learning, and the team leader for the education in conflict-affected and fragile environments initiative. In this interview, Rhodes spoke with Katie Zanoni, INEE Minimum Standards Team Member, to discuss some of the current challenges in education faced by South Sudan due to recent conflict. As a member of the INEE Minimum Standards (INEE MS) Working Group, Rhodes considered how the Standards have been an effective tool to influence program design, advocacy and collaboration among practitioners in the field.
See more interviews with INEE Working Group members here.
The 360° response by FHI 360 offers an integrated approach in addressing challenges to human development. Can you provide some examples of how this philosophy is implemented in your educational initiatives in post-conflict and fragile areas within Africa?
FHI 360 works in multiple sectors, including education, health, civil society, peacebuilding, the environment, economic development and livelihoods. We believe in a context-sensitive and strengths-based approach. Education that is context specific really tries to address the challenges that exist by understanding linguistic, cultural, political, economic and historical factors that have affected the education system. Our 360° approach enables us to address these challenges by bringing together experts across sectors.
In South Sudan, where sadly there has just been a major civil conflict, our education team will work very closely with our peacebuilding team to develop strategies for promoting reconciliation and building peace in the context of our education work. Another example is in northern Nigeria where a major challenge is to provide options to integrate modern education in Koranic schools, which many children attend, and to improve hygiene, water and sanitation in these schools.
The world’s newest country, South Sudan, reached independence in 2011, yet peace has been unattained due recent violence and conflict. How has the conflict challenged attempts to ensure access to quality education for the South Sudanese people?
The most recent conflict has raised four challenges. The first is displacement of people. If a peace agreement can be reached, people returning to their communities may find that schools were destroyed while they were gone. If people continue to be displaced, we need to think about nonformal education. The second issue is that this new conflict has probably touched the lives of very young people for the first time. The trauma caused in young children is very much a challenge and needs to be addressed. The third issue is regarding reconciliation because there will be communities where ethnic conflict has occurred. The communities will have to learn to live together again and address some very difficult periods of time where they have seen relatives and immediate family killed by militias or the army. The final issue is that youth often get recruited to join the militias or they get involved in the fighting. This is an area where there is a compelling need to figure out what opportunities can be offered to youth, particularly in the conflict zones.
What challenges have you witnessed in the application of the INEE Minimum Standards in other countries? Do you have specific suggestions in addressing these challenges?
Using the INEE MS as a framework, my colleague, Lori Mosher, conducted research on the Liberia Teacher Training Program (LTTP), a program funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. LTTP is focused on improving pre- and in-service training for teachers. We used the INEE MS to look at some issues that had not previously been considered in project design. Specifically, we looked at Domain 4: Teachers and Other Education Personnel to focus on challenges regarding salary and teacher compensation, career advancement and supervision of teachers. In Liberia, one of the challenges we found was that teacher salaries were not adequate to pay for their basic needs. The challenge is what do you do with this information? How do you get the system and donors to engage in issues such as teacher compensation that may also involve public financing for education? The INEE put together a teacher compensation study, and with tools like this, one can learn what others have done to address similar challenges.
Can you share some specific examples of how FHI 360 has successfully utilized the INEE Minimum Standards and any lessons you have learned while working with the Standards?
We are currently developing our own technical approach to designing and implementing education projects in conflict-affected and fragile environments. We will be thinking about how we will use the INEE MS as part of that approach. We referred to the contextualized INEE MS in South Sudan when we worked on a proposal for that country.
What impact do you believe the INEE Minimum Standards has had in shaping the Education in Emergencies (EiE) field?
I think it has been huge. The INEE MS originally were developed as something concrete to guide our work as we went out to different emergency situations and also as a tool to improve the quality of our education programming, as other sectors had done with the Sphere Standards. The INEE MS really raised the importance of the field of education in emergencies among donors and policymakers. I believe that the INEE MS and its success has given credibility to what the INEE has been doing, and the Standards tools have helped develop the foundation for other things to follow. One example is the Education Cluster. One could draw a line between the credibility we built and the tools we garnered to where others in the humanitarian field realized that education deserved its own coordination cluster during humanitarian responses. I think the INEE MS have served to help strengthen the knowledge and skills of staff in many nongovernmental organizations and ministries of education around the world. Because of the training and the awareness of the importance of these Standards, I think many organizations have been able to have a roadmap for what to do to improve the quality of their projects.
Are there any specific ways the INEE Secretariat can support FHI 360 in your global education initiatives?
Right now, we are working in five different countries that have varied degrees of conflict or post-conflict, including Afghanistan, El Salvador, Liberia, Sierra Leone and South Sudan. We will continue to draw on the INEE Secretariat in terms of the website, the membership and the Working Groups. That has been a huge value for us as members of both the Working Groups on the INEE MS and Education and Fragility. The interaction with our colleagues is the power of INEE that allows us to make new contacts, network, share knowledge and learn about new things. It’s a fantastic service.
Do you have any additional comments you would like to share with the INEE membership?
I would like to encourage more collaboration at the country level. We have a high degree of it at the international level through the INEE working groups and task teams, but it’s important to figure out a sustainable model for member-led collaborations at the country level.
The INEE Minimum Standards Team is currently conducting interviews to celebrate 10 years of the INEE Minimum Standards. If you are a practitioner in the field and wish to share how the INEE Minimum Standards have guided your work, please contact Katie Zanoni at Katie@ineesite.org.