Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 7th 2014 Contents SBG20 COMMENTARY
SUNDAY BUSINESS GUARDIAN www.guardian.co.tt SEPTEMBER 7 • 2014
On September 2, 2014, the
children of our country
started their new school
year. According to the Min-
istry of Education, over
18,500 Standard 5 students
who wrote the Secondary Entrance Exami-
nations in May 2014, will be entering Form
1. Most of these children are eagerly awaiting
the challenges that lie ahead. Some of them
are having trepidations about bullying and
violence in our school system.
It is the desire of all parents to see their
child is successful in their secondary education
and move on to university. However, the years
spent in the primary and secondary school
system can be quite challenging.
During the school year 2013-2014, violence
was very prevalent in some of our schools. In
fact, in May 2013 it was reported in a daily
newspaper that a 14-year-old Form Three
student was stabbed to death by a 16-year-
old Form Five student.
Two major incidents also comes to mind:
a May 2013 story of a "puppy love" triangle
involving three students, where one of them
was stabbed to death. In October 2013, it was
reported that a gang of male students attacked
a teacher, security guard and a student.
These are just a few reported incidents.
There are many that go untold. Schools are
supposed to be a place where you find new
learning, grow and make friends. The bags of
kids should have books and pens, not knives
What can we do as parents and teachers to
ensure our children get the education they
deserve without the fear of conflict and vio-
One solution to treating with conflicts in
schools is peer mediation. This is both a pro-
gramme and a process where students of the
same age-group facilitate resolving disputes
between their peers.
As we may all know, mediation is the process
of resolving a dispute between two or more
people by an independent third party. By this
definition, students can become peer mediators
who will be the independent third party to
aid other students involved in a dispute to
find a solution to their problem.
Issues to address:
1. Social media misconducts: over the few
years, we have witnessed many incidents
within our school system where social media
was used in a negative way. Facebook has
been used as forum for posting pictures and
cellphone videos of student kissing and per-
forming other sexual acts. Some students have
also used their cellphones to record physical
misconduct among other students and then
upload those videos on Facebook.
2. Relationship difficulties/harassment:
one would think students go to school
to get an education, but many students find
themselves in sexual and other inappropriate
3. Rumours and gossip: some students
may share with their friends (in con-
fidence) about problems at home, dislike for
a student or teacher and even of their feelings
for a boy/girl. However, instead of keeping this
information to themselves, they create idle
talk about what they have heard. Suddenly,
many other students start talking about the
information which, at this time, would have
been miscommunicated and distorted.
4. Stealing: this is something we adults
have experience when we were growing
up, and now our children are at the mercy of
"school thieves". Your child might come home
one day and tell you that someone stole their
book, geometry set or money.
5. Racial and cultural confrontations: chil-
dren often emulate what they see their
parents and leaders do. They then translate
this behaviour into the school by calling other
students in a negative way or degrading their
religious beliefs and ethnicity.
6. Vandalism: this is very prevalent in
our school system both at the primary
and secondary levels. Students damage tables,
chairs and property by either breaking
tables/chairs or defacing walls etc.
7. Bullying: I do not have the statistics,
but I am sure you will agree that over
the years we have seen an increase of bullying
among students. On Tuesday, October 8, 2013,
one of the daily newspaper published an article
titled, "Stop the bullying in schools". This
piece quoted acting Commissioner of Police,
Stephen Williams: "There have been many
incidents of school violence in this country
and it is time for the Police Service to get
involved, and reach out to students."
Peer mediators do not make decisions, but
rather they work with students towards finding
a win/win outcome for both sides in order to
avoid further trouble.
The process is very similar to mediation
where the parties involved in the disagreement
meet with the peer mediator to determine
that they can work together. Once the chem-
istry and environment is right and there is no
conflict of interest, the mediator will meet
with the parties to explain that the process is
confidential and get their agreement to con-
The mediator and the parties then introduce
themselves, and each party to the disagreement
is given time to tell their story. Each party
switch roles and repeats the other s story to
demonstrate that they understand the other s
Restating and summarising the facts by the
mediator ensures there is agreement of the
issues as stated by the parties. This also serves
to verify what was said and to show the parties
that the mediator is listening to them.
Having done this, it is now time for the
mediator to lead a discussion for the parties
to come up with various ways/solutions to
bring about a win/win outcome.
Once the parties agree on a solution, the
mediator will communicate with all parties to
ensure that no one is unwilling to enter into
an agreement. This written agreement or
memo of understanding/contract will be in
the words of the parties to the conflict.
Programmes such as peer mediation can
provide students with the opportunities to
test the consequences of their own decisions
as implemented in their school community.
Some of the most commonly identified benefits
of peer mediation at the school level are:
• The resolution of minor disputes that
interfere with the education process.
• A stronger sense of co-operation and
school community is achieved and school cli-
mate is improved through decreasing tension
and hostility, and reducing the time that faculty
and administration spend settling disputes.
• Peer mediators and students who partic-
ipate in peer mediation programming have
been shown to demonstrate improved self-
esteem and improved positive status amongst
their peer group, as well as improved academic
• Peer mediators develop communication
and leadership skills, as well as practical life
skills. They often carry these skill sets beyond
the school doors and into their families and
communities as well, helping to resolve prob-
lems more effectively than before.
There will always be disagreement and dis-
putes among people, and the school environ-
ment is no different. The onus is on the Min-
istry of Education, parents and teachers to
lead the way towards a program that places
the responsibility on students to aid their peers
in conflict resolution.
To quote an 11th grade mediator from a
school in the United States: "The programme
has changed my life and I feel better about
myself because of it."
Reference material: www.peermediators.org
Mrs Nashroon Mohammed, BA (Hons),
Dip LC, CCC, CLTMC is a career coach and
mediator with the Mediation Board of T&T.
She is a member with International Coach
Federation (ICF) and Board Member of
Empowering our youths to resolve disputes
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