In the aftermath of war, large numbers of people, many of them youths, become trapped in a cycle of violence, often because of a lack of educational and employment opportunities and sometimes because they lack the skills, abilities, or motivation to continue to learn or progress along a career path. TVSD is especially important in post-conflict situations, since it can facilitate economic reintegration and the restoration of sustainable livelihoods. The extension of access to, and improvement in, the quality of basic services also depends on the level of skills and institutional capacity in the public administration, at central and local levels. In practice, however, most training delivery modalities are non-existent during conflict and in post-conflict situations. External agencies are usually the only training providers, and their programmes are often short term and target only parts of the population. The programmes tend to be predominantly non-formal in nature.
The provision of education and training is a vital part of reintegration and reconstruction programmes and is an important part of UNESCO’s work. During conflict or other emergencies, the provision of education is seen as the fourth pillar of humanitarian response. Indeed, UNESCO is committed to building on its current experience in this respect, in order to develop a strategy to assist those of its Member States emerging from conflict, e.g. by integrating ex-combatants into TVSD programmes. It works in co-operation with the Interagency Network for Education in Emergencies (INEE), other UN agencies, NGOs, and national and international organisations.
In many post-conflict settings, TVSD as part of Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programmes (led by the United Nations) is a major aspect of the skills training provided, and is mainly targeted at ex-combatants. Today, DDR is an integral part of UN peacekeeping missions as well as of post-conflict reconstruction plans. Skills development (and economic development) is seen as an integral part of DDR. The success of the reintegration components of such programmes is vital for sustainable peace and development, for only when ex-combatants feel that they have an alternative for making a living, can peace and stability gain a real foothold. In Liberia, for example, where the conflict was the primary humanitarian crisis in West Africa for much of the 1990s with over 850 000 externally displaced refugees and much of the remaining population internally displaced (the fourteen-year conflict ended in 2003), much of the DDR TVSD programming was implemented through an ‘Arms for Training’ campaign wherein a collection site was set up and vouchers for training programmes were exchanged for weapons. According to the United Nations Mission in Liberia, who led the DDR process, 94 000 of the 100 000 men, women and children who were disarmed former combatants were given access to the rehabilitation and reintegration programmes in the campaign, which was funded by the UNDP DDR Trust Fund, USAID, the European Commission and UNICEF. The training often included skills and/or vocational training components and were often sub-contracted to local and international non-governmental organisations. The training provided focussed on construction, agriculture and business skills. Programmes geared towards women included cooking, domestic skills and small business management. The majority of the demobilised children also chose vocational-related training options, such as agricultural vocational training.
In Sudan, home to the longest-running conflict on the continent, the majority of the population in southern Sudan was denied access to schooling during the war years. Formal TVET training hardly exists in southern Sudan. The most common training programming involves livelihood skills at the community level. Vétérinaires sans frontières (VSF)- Belgium, for example, trains pastoralist groups in techniques that improve animal husbandry practices. Other NGOs work with farming communities to increase crop yields. Such livelihoods skills training programmes build on local knowledge or introduce innovation in a skill that is already practiced. Another international NGO, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), established about half of all two dozen training centres that currently exist in southern Sudan. In the absence of a southern Sudanese vocational curriculum, NGOs typically establish their own training curriculum at each centre or adapt Kenyan or Ugandan curricula. However, this is strongly opposed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology.
Although the implementation of TVSD programmes varies in different post-conflict contexts, there are some trends and problems which can be identified. Formal TVET programmes are rarely tied to skills demanded by the labour market. In fragile and poorly functioning post-conflict economies, the need for skilled labour is huge. However, paid employment opportunities are usually scarce given the state of the economy. This disconnect between training and employment opportunities is perhaps the most significant obstacle of existing TVSD initiatives in countries post-conflict. In Liberia, for example, there is very limited diversity in the existing TVSD programmes associated with DDR, as most have a strong focus on construction-related industries. This emphasis, while well-intentioned, largely failed to improve the livelihoods of the participants in the training, and often flooded particular labour markets while others remained under-represented. In southern Sudan, training programmes that focus on traditional skills – e.g., agriculture, fishing – are more successful than those which focus on trades such as carpentry or masonry, which are often taught in the formal training centres. The reason for this is that markets in southern Sudan are not large enough to employ graduates with these skills. In northern Uganda, given its rural economy, formal TVET cannot generally be expected to result in wage employment. The livelihood options for the majority of people consist of entrepreneurial self-employment, or, more realistically, small-scale agriculture or petty self-employment. It is crucial that education and training in northern Uganda reflect this fact.
Overall, in post-conflict countries the training capacity needs to be urgently revitalised, including the re-equipping of training courses and re-establishment of quality assurance in education and training, while at the same time, demand driven and flexible training programmes must be delivered to quickly train the population and enable communities to revive. The need to build national training systems and establish proper governance and financing mechanisms for skills development is also considered essential in the medium term.