So That Our Dreams Will Not Escape Us: Learning to Think Together in Time of War
The paper explores a new way of fostering learning in children exposed to war and extreme violence. When children are asked to name their own priorities, attending school is at the top of the list.
But when they have been exposed to the most extreme forms of violence, they often find that the very same mental mechanisms that have allowed them to endure prevent them from using what they have experienced, making learning impossible. Education programs that attempt to support mentalization may call up unexpected levels of resistance as the young minds unconsciously struggle to keep terrifying meanings away. However, by combining traditional healing with reparative activity, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MOES) of Uganda was able to create conditions for Acholi children abducted as child soldiers, even those who had seen parents and siblings killed before their eyes, to be able to tolerate the possibility of thinking. By addressing this fear first, the MOES has been able to embed relational principles into the fabric of its program so that in the midst of war, teachers can teach, children can learn, and adolescents can have hope that their dreams will not escape them.