of good practice
During the preparation phase for
DOmino a questionnaire was sent out to youth organisations,
youth services and youth initiatives asking for descriptions
of innovative peer group education projects. We would
like to thank all those who answered this questionnaire,
we regret that we could only include a small selection
of the project descriptions.
In the following, you will find five
project descriptions showing different approaches
of peer group education as a means to combat intolerance
and violence. Those projects reflect the different
approaches described in Section 2 of Domino, i.e.
projects in formal and informal educational settings
and peer led or 'grass roots' initiatives. The addresses
at the end of each project description will help you
seek further information.
5.1. The Peacemaker-project
in Offenbach/Germany An example for peer mediation
A peacemaker is a person who helps
others to end quarrels. In many cultures, especially
older ones such people are highly regarded. They have
various names, but they all have the common role of
finding solutions for quarrels without violence or
injury. Such human traditions are important in our
modern societies, where problems are more complicated
and conflicts are more confused than ever before.
We have therefore taken this traditional
model for a project on conflict resolution in the
schools of Offenbach, Germany. The project is being
run by the local Youth and Education Office, part
of our National Youth Service, which organizes educational
events to co-ordinate the activities of the different
institutions that work with children and young people
in our town.
The peacemaker-project forms
part of a larger pilot project, "violence-prevention",
and was developed on the basis of two theoretical
approaches: peer group education and mediation. This
project was also grant aided by the European Steering
Group of the European Youth Campaign.
The significance of peer group education
in formal and informal educational settings for projects
outside the school curriculum.
Peer group education in schools
has a long history. The idea of helping relationships
between students in formal school settings has been
utilized by teachers for centuries. Some authors trace
peer teaching back to the ancient Greeks and Romans,
others just to the Middle Ages. It was not until the
end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of
the nineteenth century however that peer teaching
started to be used on a large scale in Great Britain
and America. In the other European countries it was
practiced but to a lesser degree.
With industrialization knowledge
of reading and writing became a necessity even for
the poor, but there were neither teachers nor schools
to satisfy the requirements. It was in this context
that educational approaches such as Andrew Bell's
Madras-system and the Monitorial-system of Joseph
Lancaster were put into practice. Under these systems
teachers taught a few students (monitors) who then
became responsible for passing on what they had learnt
to the rest of the children. The method used group
teaching in a very formal and usually very authoritarian
style but in the situation it was very effective.
However as the educational system
of the western world developed in the nineteenth century,
the monitorial system became less appropriate. Only
in the smaller one-class schools were the methods
of peer teaching still practiced. For the Developing
World, especially in Latin America it continued to
be a valuable way of teaching people to read and write.
For this reason peer group education was for a long
time identified as a cheap method of teaching basic
In educational discussion however,
attention was not paid to the benefits of peer group
education. Benefits which we now see as valuable in
the modern school system: children who do not respond
well to adults will often learn more from peer tutors;
and the tutors themselves benefit by learning the
skill of teaching. The idea of students learning through
helping each other is a positive alternative to the
traditional system of learning through competing with
In the last twenty years the benefits
of peer group education have been rediscovered in
the educational debate, especially in Great Britain
and the USA. Today in our developed education systems
in Europe we have no lack of schools and teachers
to teach the fundamental skills, but outside the field
of "fact-learning" the formal methods are
rarely effective. We are seeing more and more open
discussion among young people about violence, intolerance,
abuse of drugs etc. It is this latter context where
peer group teaching can be an important addition to
formal education and can significantly contribute
to the humanisation of schooling.
The necessity of conflict resolving
in a constructive way for children and young people
and the process of mediation.
For many young people violence
is the most effective way of resolving problems. They
get no pleasure out of violence but to them there
appears to be no other solution. They learn from adults
that it is acceptable to eliminate competitors for
ones own success. They see films which show that you
only achieve in this world through violence and they
don't want to be considered weak in their peer group.
We would think that children and
young people can learn the non-violent attitudes and
that they are capable of resolving many of their problems
themselves. However it is evident that our abilities
to handle conflicts in a constructive way have not
kept pace with the technical and social development
in our societies. It is therefore necessary to break
through this cycle of violence and counter violence
among young people. There are various models to handle
conflicts in a democratic and non-violent way.
One of these non-violent approaches
is "mediation", solving a conflict through
a third person. A third person can help the fighting
parties to find a solution which suits both sides
and create what is known as a win-win situation. The
mediator leads the opponents through a stage-by-stage-process
to clarify the problems and the motives and to find
an acceptable solution.
The method of mediation was developed
in the USA and has been used there for 20 years in
various fields - in neighbourhood quarrels, in marriage
conflicts and also in the so-called offender-victim
compensation in youth criminal law. The most important
condition - and also the most important restriction
- is the voluntary readiness of all participants to
take part in discussion and to look for a solution.
The mediator can help both parties to find solutions,
but he/she can't settle their problems for them.
The structure of the model project
"violence-prevention" in Offenbach
In June of 1993 Offenbach
Town Council asked the Youth Office to develop a programme
against violence, racism, anti-Semitism and right-wing
extremism. The background was the increasing racism
in Germany in the nineties and the success in the
local elections of the right-extremist party, the
"Republicans". In the last local elections
the party won 15% of the election votes in Offenbach,
and in some districts more than 30%. The council recognizes
that this is a potentially dangerous situation for
Offenbach, especially taking into account that is
the town with the highest rate of migrant people in
Germany. Every third resident in Offenbach does not
possess a German passport.
The Youth Educational Office began
to work on a pilot project, which was accepted last
year and is now running. The main objectives of this
a) The implementation of a system
of constructive problem resolving in the schools and
youth institutions of Offenbach.
This is done by using three working
• to make "conflict
profiles" of classes or groups of young people
in schools, kindergarten and youth centres, in order
to find out the existing problems and conflicts.
• to develop programmes for
children and young people to handle conflicts in a
constructive way. The most important programme of
this type is the "peacemaker-programme"
which involves conflict mediation and training for
constructive problem resolving.
• to train teachers and social
workers in the methods of conflict resolving. In this
step by step training the teachers learn the methods
of counseling children and young people with problems.
b) The building of an infrastructure
for tolerance and human rights education.
c) The setting up of a local network
and an information service for schools and youth centres.
The Peacemaker-Project of mediating
conflicts between students
The basis of this project are the
experiences of peer group education. It involves the
transfer of mediation into the educational process
and the trust in children to solve their own problems.
What happens in a peer mediation
process is something like this:
Two students have a quarrel. There
is not necessarily violence, but there is unhappiness
and tears. They each decide (and it must be their
decision) to ask for the help of a mediator. All four
pupils - two disputants, and two mediators go through
a stage-by-stage process which involves the mediators
listening to the disputants, identifying their feelings
and needs and then agreeing on a course of action.
The culmination comes when the disputants sign a short
contract and shake hands.
This scenario shows the mediation
process when it is introduced in a class or a school
and helped by the teachers. In the next three years
we hope to create the conditions for this type of
process to be put into practice.
As a first phase we have developed
a training programme for the students and the teachers.
In the process of building this training programme
we saw that not all students are able to act as mediators,
either because they are not interested or because
they have too little appreciation in their group.
We have therefore developed the training
programme in two ways. We have trained a group of
delegates from various classes (10-12 years old) in
a course made up of two 2 days and three afternoons
of 3 hours in mediating conflicts. After the training
we introduced them as mediators in their classes.
In a second course we worked with
a whole class for 5 units of 3 hours and held an election
for the mediators. With the chosen students we have
then gone through a separate training programme of
mediation. The students who completed the training
course received a certificate, or a "peacemaker-card".
In this process we have seen that it is very important
that the teachers help the students in their class
and that other teachers and parents accept the mediators.
We now run training courses for the teachers who help
the students and information meetings for the parents.
These activities were the basis for a constructive
atmosphere at the "Schiller-Schule" a large
secondary school where the project was first introduced.
In the second phase we established the developed training
programme in the other classes and began to implement
the peacemaker-programme in the following steps:
• We run a training course
for teachers from 6 classes. The teachers learn the
basic exercises for problem resolving in a constructive
way and the basic rules of mediation.
• These teachers then
run the first parts of the training for pupil up until
the election of the mediators, where approximately
6 students from each class are chosen. This is known
as the run-phase.
• Then we build two
courses with the elected students from these 6 classes
and go with them through the mediation training course.
These courses are lead by educated trainers without
• When the trained
mediators are introduced in their classes we monitor
their activities and organize regular meetings for
• At the same time
we organize various meetings and activities to encourage
discussion between the schools about these projects.
Such activities have included a prize-competition,
schoolyard-theatre and other events.
The project was started in October
1994. The first experiences we have made are very
encouraging and we are often astonished how quickly
the children have found new solutions to conflicts.
For further information contact
Jugendbildungswerk des Jugendamtes
der Stadt Offenbach
63071 Offenbach, Germany
Tel.: 069/85000911, Fax: 069/85000946
Website in German:
If the group would like to think about how they could
tackle racism by developing an anti-racist policy
for their own school, club or organisation, then they
may like to do the activity, "Responding
to racism" in Compass.