Handling conflict in Brazil's schools
Besides the programmes in the restorative juvenile justice that deal with children who have gotten into trouble with the law, Terre des hommes also aims at the prevention of incidents of violence in Brazil. By means of programmes to handle conflicts in schools and communities, children learn to solve their conflicts instead of being punished for misconduct.
Children in Brazil experience violence on a daily basis, be it in the family, the school or their community. Through the intervention of mediators and by acquiring techniques to handle conflicts, they learn to settle rows and to avoid them in the future.
Célia de Deus, headmaster of a middle school in Mucuripe in Fortaleza, enumerates the problems that the pupils in this violent area face: “Drugs are easily available for school children and many girls get pregnant at the age of 13 or 14 already. Moreover, many pupils are not very interested in school, because they don’t see how school can improve their life.” Therefore, the potential for conflict is high in Mucuripe.
The mediation techniques that Tdh has been teaching pupils and teachers for two years, have simplified life together and children now know how to solve disagreements. Célia herself noted that it is not “simply a matter of making out ‘the guilty one’, but of assuming responsibility for the action that led to the conflict.” At the moment, the school is about to set up a separate mediation room where people can meet in the case of conflict.
Headmaster Marcos Justino Matias (in the picture on the right hand side) has had a similar experience in a conflict with a student who showed up late. The latter threatened the director and broke a window. The headmaster decided not to call the police and asked Terre des hommes to act as a mediator instead. Both sides were heard and the conflict was solved, so the pupil did not have to leave the school.
“Before, when a student violated school rules, depending on the seriousness of the violation, we would ask him to leave the school permanently. Today we see that there are alternatives to punishment. We understand that in the majority of cases, punishment is not the best solution, because it doesn’t really clarify the problem. It may relieve the school to send the student away, though the child doesn’t learn anything through it, neither does he think about the mistake that he committed.”
In Brazil, Terre des hommes trains pupils and teachers in the particularly conflict-prone schools in the federal states Cearà, Maranhao and Rio Grande do Norte. By using mediation in conflicts, disagreements are settled in a peaceful manner and future acts of violence are prevented.Photo credit: Escola Murilo Borges © Tdh / Drawlio Joca