Addressing violence in schools

2010-05-24 00:00

EDUCATION MEC Senzo Mchunu has said that crime and violence are social evils that cannot be addressed by education alone.

Taking up his challenge, students from the University of KwaZulu-Natal are introducing non-violent methods of conflict resolution, based on the internationally acclaimed Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP), in schools and in communities.

The UKZN has for 11 years adopted AVP as one of its electives in participatory development courses for the certificate in education offered by the Centre for Adult Education.

Schools in Imbali, Bulwer, Mpophomeni, Haythorne, Edendale and Northdale, among others, have benefited from the project.

“There are many encouraging examples of changes taking place in local schools through the AVP workshops,” provincial AVP network co-ordinator Ingrid Andersen told the paper.

Through the AVP workshops, pupils are taught how to approach situations without being confrontational or emotional.

Andersen believes the workshops enhance the capacity to create successful personal interaction by encouraging participants to find ways of transforming potential situations of conflict into non-violent outcomes.

In one classic example, she said, two UKZN students, concerned about escalating levels of violence and the safety of schoolchildren in the Northdale area, ran an AVP workshop at Silver Heights Secondary as their “development in practice” exercise in 2008.

Andersen said the project was so successful that an advanced workshop was run the following year at the request of the school.

As a result, pupils and teachers were themselves trained as facilitators, which left a sustainable peacekeeping project in place at the school.

The Greater Edendale Development Forum is one of the non-profit organisations that has adopted AVP.

The first AVP workshops run specifically for a community rather than a school were organised by Phaphama Initiatives at Georgetown Library in 2005.

According to Andersen, anyone willing to apply the principles in their own life can be trained as a facilitator.

Her offices are at the Centre for Adult Education at the UKZN School of Education and Development on the Pietermaritzburg campus.

• More than 900 basic AVP workshops have been run in this province over the past 11 years, and over 150 facilitators have been trained.

• AVP facilitators are found throughout KZN, from Melmoth to Kokstad.

• Workshops are held at schools, universities, churches and prisons, and for community groups.

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