Peer Mediation & Peace Education
Incidences of youth and children being forced or coerced into violence and unrest in parts of east and central Africa remain alarmingly high. As a result of growing up in an environment of conflict, poverty and injustice; a culture of intolerance, hostility, hatred and aggression has taken root among the youth. This problem is compounded by politicians and military groups that exploit the vulnerability and economic condition of the youth, by forcing or coercing them to engage in riots and violence. Where children and youth should learn how to peacefully resolve disputes and work together to solve problems, they are learning from older members of society that the way to create change is through fear, intimidation and force. Sadly, evidence of this has come through on more than the political scene. In July 2008, for example, a total of 300 Kenyan high schools were shut down as a result of student riots, violence and arson that resulted in one death, multiple injuries and property damage worth millions.
With half the population of sub-Saharan Africa being under 18 — and rapidly growing, it is clear that achieving peace and positive, holistic transformation in the entire region will depend on working with the youth in Africa to change this culture of intolerance and violence into one of tolerance and peace; and to promote the biblical principle of forgiveness for the reconciliation of communities. To this end, ALARM has developed culturally relevant curriculum to provide peace education to the youth, as well as training for teachers and school administrators in setting up peer mediation clubs. In western Kenya, one of the areas hardest hit by post-election violence in 2007, ALARM has worked with head-teachers and school administrators to develop peer mediation clubs, and continues to provide training to peer mediators in the practice and ethics of mediation. The peer mediation and peace education curriculum covers conflict resolution, mediation, problem solving, how to handle bullying, tolerance in diversity, apologies, forgiveness and reconciliation.
In addition to peer mediation and peace clubs, ALARM actively encourages the youth to participate in promoting social change by spreading the message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. In Congo, a group of youth trained through ALARM’s Emerging Leaders training program started a choir called “Ambassadors of Peace.” This choir performs at various churches and other venues throughout the area, bringing messages of peace, reconciliation and hope through their music, drama, skits, dance and other means of communication. In Burundi, a similar youth group, “The Forgiven”, spreads the message of forgiveness and reconciliation through their music, drama, skits, dance and other means of communication. In Kenya more than 10 schools have mediation clubs with teachers and school administrators involved.
For more information and stories about ALARM’s peer mediation training programs and peace clubs, click here.