Xenophobia is the psychic trauma after a dramatic event that has to do with something unfamiliar or someone from other countries. The effect of the disorder is the irrational
fear of anything strange...

Anthony Bargilly, 17 years,

Racism is a widely spread problem even in our days. People feel obliged to criticise others according to racial colour, religion, political or sexual beliefs. I find such behaviour unacceptable and even sickening. I just want to say that one should take a good look at oneself first before one begins to criticise others.

Miranda Maratheftou,
18 years, Cyprus


Section 5

Examples 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 in schools

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 literary skills.

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 others.

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 project are:

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 methods:

• 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 the teachers.

When the trained mediators are introduced in their classes we monitor their activities and organize regular meetings for mediators.

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

Landgrafenstrasse 5

63071 Offenbach, Germany

Tel.: 069/85000911, Fax: 069/85000946

Email: jugendbildungswerk@jugendamt-of.de

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.

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