Development organizations are increasingly being asked to provide education in places that have been torn apart by wars and other conflicts. Reading and writing instruction is often pushed to the forefront of education-in-conflict interventions, because literacy is a foundational skill for future education and success in the workforce. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) goal of improving the reading skills of 100 million children by 2015 emphasizes the value of literacy.
Importantly, literacy also offers the potential to mitigate conflict. Instructional materials to develop literacy can include stories that model peaceful problem solving, value diversity (through characters who identify with various ethnic groups, for example) and communicate important information about safety and emergency measures.
Despite the possible benefits, building literacy in conflict situations is complex. Common challenges, such as limited materials and infrastructure, militarized populations and psychosocial trauma, require substantial creativity and innovation in literacy programming. FHI 360 is addressing these challenges in three key ways:
First, we are gaining knowledge to inform practice. Education in conflict is an understudied field, and very little is known about best practices for literacy instruction in conflict contexts. In 2014, JBS International commissioned an important research report by Lesley Bartlett and Zeena Zakharia, which provided “the first steps in developing a framework for literacy education in conflict- and crisis-affected contexts.”