JIS News

Mediation, with an emphasis on conciliation and restoration, is being forwarded as one proven and effective way of resolving much of the social conflicts plaguing Jamaica.
This was the common view expressed by various individuals at PALS Jamaica’s Peace Day celebrations held at King’s House in Kingston, this morning (March 2), under the theme “Peace Every Time” with emphasis on enriching the working relationship between PALS, The Disputes Resolution Foundation and the Kingston Restoration Company.
The Governor General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Sir Howard Cooke in addressing the gathering, said that in the face of increasing incidents of violence, particularly domestic disputes, dialogue and mediation were the way forward.
“We must develop a culture of finding peaceful solutions to our differences in opinion. we must refrain from abusing and hurting others, the very soul of our society is disturbed and affected by violence.we have to be agents of change learning to treat each other with tolerance.forgiveness, compassion and love,” he stressed.
He commended PALS for the work done in reducing acts of violence in schools, using the opportunity to congratulate them on the decision to change the Acronym from Peace and Love in Schools, to Peace and Love in Society.
The Governor General said this emphasis on reaching the wider community was important as often times the good taught in schools became ineffective because of a conflicting home environment. He expressed the desire to see the initiative becoming a “spring board” for new dimensions in relationships within the country.
Furthermore, he added that it was imperative that partnerships be formed between groups that are “genuinely seeking to find a solution to the problem.”
Executive Director of PALS, Janet Lee, in her remarks, referred to an increasing trend in the rise of “discipline problems” in schools, a problem which she said was a reflection of the macro environment as violence remained a challenge for Jamaica. She said the realization came closer home, as the acts/violations committed were becoming more vicious in nature with some resorting to carrying weapons. These changes, she added, gave rise to the need for teachers to use more dynamic, responsive, preventive and proactive skills to the fore as schools provide a strategic setting for the prevention of violence and abusive behaviour.
She said a questionnaire administered to some 561 teachers across eight parishes in 2001 by the University of the West Indies’ Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), revealed that students needed to be taught how to resolve problems and to control their anger, and schools needed to do a better job teaching students how to agree to disagree and how to respect authority.
The Executive Director informed that feedback from various studies also revealed that more training in the wider community complementing what was taught in schools would help to create a turnaround as students often revert to negative reactions in conflicting situations outside of the classroom. “There is need to go beyond the classroom get into the community and maybe changes will be more visible,” she stated.
She announced that teachers colleges islandwide were integrating material from PALS’ curriculum on classroom and behaviour management with their guidance and counseling programme.
PALS is a “not-for-profit” foundation which offers conflict resolution programmes for schools and teaches staff and students skills and behaviours that help shape the culture and climate of the school.
Peer mediation is also an integral part of the programme with mediators being trained from as early as the third grade. It is active in 250 primary schools across the island, two teachers colleges and select secondary schools. There are plans to further their reach into high schools. It is also being piloted in early childhood institutions.
Meanwhile, Chairman of PALS, Morin Seymour said projects done in partnership with the Kingston Restoration Company (KRC) and the Disputes Resolution Foundation have shown positive results. These initiatives, which are intended to improve the social and economic environment in targeted communities, include the Social Conflict and Legal Reform project in Flankers, Montego Bay and Trench Town in Kingston and the Peace and Prosperity Project in the communities of Grants Pen and Standpipe, St. Andrew.
He noted that one important outcome was the significant decrease in the number of major crimes in the Grants Pen community. Some 4,104 persons from both communities participated and have benefited from training in conflict resolution and other offerings under the programme.