Controlling bullying, arson in schools – a mediator’s view

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Bullying can threaten students’ physical and emotional safety at school and can negatively impact their ability to learn and lead to school strikes, suicides and arson.

The best way to address bullying is to stop it before it starts. There are a number of things school staff can do to make schools safer and prevent bullying, suicide and arson.

It is important for the school managements to conduct assessments in their schools to determine how often bullying occurs, where it happens, how students and adults intervene, and whether their prevention efforts are working.

This would be the best way to plan research has shown that school-based bullying, suicide and arson is a phenomenon that spans regions in Kenya and other parts of Africa , and occurs in boys, girls and mixed schools, private and public schools, and across school calendars.

It is important for the school management to establish a school culture of acceptance, tolerance and respect. Use staff meetings, assemblies, class and parent meetings, mediation conciliation and negotiations, newsletters to families, the school website, and the student handbook to establish a positive climate at school. Reinforce positive social interactions and inclusiveness. That brings me to a process we call peer mediation.

– What is peer mediation? –
Peer mediation is a program that teaches strategies to young people that allow them to handle conflicts in a positive and constructive manner.

With proper training and application of that training, students learn to use conflict as a positive force that can lessen the detrimental effects of conflict and increase social skills and personal image of self.

Peer mediation is problem solving by youth with youth. It is a process by which two or more students involved in a dispute meet in a private, safe and confidential setting to work out problems with the assistance of a trained student mediator.

Schools that teach students positive ways to resolve conflicts will aid in the reduction of violence in our society today. Youths who learn to resolve conflicts positively are likely to do the same when they become adults. The current political animosity we find ourselves in today is as a result of failure to inculcate conflict competence at the early stages in schools.

Peer mediation is an excellent tool that can be used by students and staff to help settle conflicts that lead to bullying and extreme reactions like arson and suicide. It enables students to settle their disputes creatively, peacefully and cooperatively.
Peer mediation is a program that teaches strategies to young people that allow them to handle conflicts in a positive and constructive manner. With proper training and application of that training, students learn to use conflict as a positive force that can lessen the detrimental effects of conflict and increase social skills and personal image of self.

School administrators, such as principals, headmasters, headmistresses and boarding masters, can play a powerful role in bullying prevention by embracing the idea of training their teachers, subordinate staff and students in peer mediation.

With confrontation, conflict often escalates, threats continue to occur, and hostilities often emerge again leading to bullying, suicide and arson. However, with peer mediation the root of the problem can be discovered, addressed, and resolved before it escalates.

Peer mediation training and the use of mediation can assist students in schools in several ways:

o Students are taught skills such as listening, critical thinking and problem solving, which can be brought to bear in solving their own conflicts as well as the problems of their peers
o Peer mediation is an empowering process in which students learn to assume greater responsibility for resolving their own problems rather than resorting to extreme reactions like arson etc.
o Peer mediation can sensitise students to cultural and tribal differences and how to approach these issues in respectful ways.

– Benefits of peer mediation –
– Students and teachers are able to work together in a friendlier, relaxed way
– Students often become peer leaders.
– Students become better people.
– Students gain confidence in their ability to help themselves.
– Students learn to get along better at home and at school.
– Students grades often improve.
– Students become conflict competent by gaining conflict intelligence.
– Arguments decrease, so students spend more time learning.

Research has shown that school-based bullying, suicides and arson is a phenomenon that spans regions in Kenya and the whole African continent, and occurs in boys, girls and mixed schools, private and public schools and universities, and across school calendars.

Introducing peer mediation in schools and universities will change the way students look at conflict and make them conflict competent, and this is the dream of every parent and every school.

James Mangerere advocate
Distinguished Fellow International Academy of Mediators
President MTI East Africa

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