By: Dustin Johnson
During the first week of April, our research officer Dustin Johnson visited Sierra Leone to conduct an initial round of monitoring and evaluation of the Dallaire Initiative’s education project. Along with staff from our in-country partner, Pikin-to-Pikin Movement, he visited the three primary schools in Port Loko, Bombali, and Moyamba districts where the project is being piloted.
At each school, 48 students from grades 3 to 5 are members of a Dallaire Initiative Peace Club. Through drama, songs, and discussions, the students learn about peace, child protection, and preventing interpersonal violence, and then spread these messages among the other students, to other schools, at home, and in the community. At each school, Dustin and Pikin-to-Pikin staff conducted mapping exercises, group interviews with the students, and one-on-one interviews with the teachers who coordinate the clubs and local Pikin-to-Pikin staff to gather information on the project from a different perspective.
From the responses provided by the students, staff, and teachers, it is clear that the project is already beginning to have an impact on the students, the school, and their communities. The messages disseminated in the clubs appears to be causing behaviour change among the students, including reducing bullying and fighting, and encouraging them to talk to their friends and intervene to prevent this kind of behaviour. Many of the students also reported talking to their parents about peace and what they learned in the clubs, encouraging them to reduce conflict and abuse in the home.
The clubs also undertake activities like visiting other schools to spread their message, tackling fighting that occurs at sporting matches and other events between schools, and visiting local courts and chiefs to learn more about conflict resolution institutions and encourage their use.
Overall, the project so far is a success and appears to already be having an impact. As time goes on, further assessments will better reveal the impact on the wider community and demonstrate the importance of this approach of working directly with children to build peace in the community and the country.