Why conflict resolution should be taught in schools
SIR: From legislative violence to communal, domestic, ethnoreligious, social media wawulence (violence) and more, it is evident that Nigeria is plagued by varying levels of violent conflicts.
It is mind-boggling to see that on the first-ever season of a reality show involving citizens from two African countries, Nigerians were the first ones to fight each other.
Although conflict is an inevitable universal phenomenon that is bound to arise when individuals or groups differ in interests, opinions and thought processes, it doesn’t have to result in violence. Knowing how to respond (and not react) determines whether the outcomes of conflict are constructive or destructive.
Multiple studies have shown that “harmless” individuals can be easily programmed to inflict violence upon others without motive or reason. Therefore, violence is learned behaviour. Thus, what is learnt can be unlearnt. Conflict resolution which is defined as the process of settling disputes and reaching peaceful resolutions without wasting lives or property or resorting to violence can be learnt if taught.
The axiom “catch them young” expresses the desire to train, support and guide children early in life to develop them towards the right direction. I believe there is a dire need for the inclusion of conflict management and peace education in the nation’s primary and secondary school curriculum in order to help students have an early understanding and clarity on how to deal with conflicts and disputes. During adolescence, many children act out their emotions in the form of teasing, bullying, shaming, gossip and physical aggression. If left unchecked, these same behavioural patterns will transfer over into the teenage years, where stiffer competition exists among peer groups. The inability to resolve conflict without resorting to violence is symptomatic of the youth’s inability to handle confrontation.
Teaching students how to resolve conflict in a peaceful way can help reduce incidents of violence and criminal mischief even as they grow older. Conflict resolution education can make this a reality. Conflict resolution education can inculcate both students and teachers with skills that allow opposing parties to express their points of view and interests, and provide ways to find common ground while encompassing them with assertiveness, empathy, mediation and other life skills to ensure harmonious coexistence.
It is important to build capacity even among children and youths for peaceful engagement and to be able to address conflict in a way that facilitates peaceful coexistence. Conflict management and building capacity for peace in an era of serious conflict are very necessary for national development. Therefore, Nigeria must deal with conflict situations decisively and squarely; because conflict enthrones disintegration as it simultaneously dethrones harmony, trust, love and tranquillity. It is our collective responsibility to guide the minds of the future by sowing seeds of peace among young citizens because Nigeria will never have one ethnic group, one political party, the same culture, language, opinion or the many other differences that often divide us. But Nigerians can be taught to respect these differences.
Pamela Ephraim is a peace advocate and journalist.