ITF and ECDR Providing Training for School Mediators from Bosnia and Herzegovina
Ljubljana, February 20, 2019 – ITF Enhancing Human Security (ITF) and the European Center for Dispute Resolution (ECDR) today hosted 28 teachers, school mediators from nine elementary schools from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), at a capacity-building program on school and peer mediation. The aim of the program is to familiarize school mediators with the role of mediation in the school system in Slovenia and to show examples of good practice and exchange of opinions between the interlocutors from Slovenia and BiH. In order to implement this part of the program, ITF secured additional support from Canada and thus supplemented the “School and Peer mediation project in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. The latter started with a pilot phase in the school year 2017/2018 with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Slovenia with three schools included, while in the school year 2018/2019 it continues with the second phase with nine schools and additional support from Korea. The goal of the project is to strengthen tolerance, dialogue and equality in the school environment as well as everyday life.
In the first phase of the project, the elementary schools from Brčko, Gračanica and Doboj municipalities participated, 90 children that attended mediation workshops at their schools, and nine teachers who took on the role of school mediators. In school year 2018/2019, nine schools have been included in the project: 2nd, 3rd and 4th Elementary School Brčko, Elementary School Hasan Kikić Gračanica, 2nd Elementary School Gračanica, Elementary School Stjepan Polje Gračanica, Elementary School Sveti Sava Doboj, Elementary School Milan Rakić Bukovica Velika with the branch office Kotorsko. Together, 27 teachers/school mediators and 90 children, peer mediators participate.
The 2-day program containing workshops and seminars for school mediators in Ljubljana, supported by Canada and its Canada Fund for Local Initiatives (CFLI), has been carried out by ITF with expertise support and coordination by ECDR. Participants, together with ECDR mediation expert, evaluated the mediation activities carried out in partner schools in BiH, and exchanged examples of good and bad practice. The representatives of the Municipality of Ljubljana presented the role of the Municipality in offering support to mediation programs in schools. Visit at the Elementary School Preserje pri Radomljah enabled a dialogue between teachers and school director who have already 20 years of experience in carrying out mediation programs. Lastly, a presentation at the ECDR has been organized in order to provide the participants an understanding of a wider context of mediation as an expertise and business model, focusing specifically on consumer mediation.
The general goal of the project is to teach teachers and students about the techniques and tools of mediation that can solve conflict situations independently and mutually, and enhance tolerance, dialogue and equality in the school environment as well as in other areas of everyday life. The project activities give special emphasis also on peer mediation, which supports the resolution of conflicts among pupils, improves the atmosphere in school and prevents the emergence of major conflicts in the future. The ITF project partner ECDR transfers knowledge to teachers, who face problems and mutual conflicts almost every day, about the capabilities for mutual and independent resolution of conflict situations. It is important to educate pedagogical staff on mediation, which leads to improvement of school atmosphere, greater belonging to the school and greater mutual trust and respect among pupils and teachers. Peer mediation is crucial in actively seeking their own paths to resolving conflict or remedying mistakes that have caused damage to another peer or group of peers. By doing this, pupils learn that mediation can resolve disputes so that both sides are satisfied in most cases. Pupils learn important life skills such as communication, proactive seeking and assessing of solutions, taking responsibility for their own decisions and coexisting with different-minded peers.
Martin Silič, Project Manager, ITF, pointed out that: "It is important that the intention and attempt to introduce mediation in the school environment proved to be successful, which is confirmed by the positive response of the partner schools in BiH also in the current second phase of the project implementation. All stakeholders in the project, donors, implementing partners and, last but not least, representatives of target primary schools included in the project, are aware that an essential shift in the project development cycle will be achieved when institutional frameworks are in place to ensure sustainability of the current efforts. In other words, that the relevant national institutions will, in the long run, be able to ensure the implementation of mediation in schools even without the financial support of donor countries. Taking into account the administrative and management specificity of BiH, the realization of this goal will be a particularly challenging undertaking, which we are planning to tackle, at least to some extent, in the next phase of the project, in the school year 2019/2020.”
Dr. Jernej Šoštar, international expert on mediation, ECDR, added: ”Evaluation of the work last year, when we started the pilot project of school and peer mediation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, positively surprised me. The knowledge and skills that we delivered first to elementary school teachers and then to their students were, above all, expected to have a positive impact on the reduction of peer violence and the strengthening of a positive school climate. Teachers have internalized the methods and approaches of school mediation and, with enormous enthusiasm, transferred them among their colleagues and students. Supervisions I have performed in schools have shown that the teachers involved in the project transferred the school mediation to nearly all of the collective, including the directors. Because of the positive effects of school and peer mediation in school, the latter are very pleased with our work and fully support the incentive. Personally, I believe that satisfaction, self-esteem and joy of the students when they tell me about their experiences and successes in carrying out inter-peer mediation is the indicator that most concretely shows that we are doing well. For this reason, I very much hope that our donors, whom I would like to thank from the heart on this occasion, will continue to recognize the quality of the School and Peer mediation in BiH and to support it in the future as well.”
Ana Nuša Kern, Director of the Elementary School Preserje pri Radomljah said about the implementation of mediation: "The learning of peer mediation is carried out in steps from the first grade, when students learn to solve conflict situations between them at the "blue table". It continues at the class level through the training of peer mediators by individual classes. We believe that this greatly contributes to the fact that pupils can solve their own conflicts themselves, but when conflicts outgrow their knowledge frames, they know how to seek help from adults to assist them in conflict resolution. In addition, we prepare a theatre play that illustrates the resolution of conflicts between peers, and these performances are the subject of wider debate and discussion in individual classes. We consider it important to teach pupils of a peaceful and tolerant solution to conflict situations, because we hope that they will also be able to transfer this into their adult lives, thereby making our world friendlier."