By Emiko Perea
In Uruguay, young people live in difficult homes and school environments ridden with conflict stemming from violence and lack of education. According to UNICEF, about thirty percent of children and teens in Uruguay are bullied at school. Furthermore, thousands of students in Uruguay dropout of school before they graduate high school, due to financial barriers, sudden pregnancy, and poor education.
Because many of the students’ conflicts originate from the classroom, GPW Uruguay chapter president, Nedar Nibia Pizzo wanted to create a safer environment for students by implementing a program to help them build conflict resolution skills at school. From April to July 2018, Nibia ran a program with 13 teenage girls on “Conflict Resolution.” The incredible aspect of this program was that it empowered the teenage girls to guide more than forty elementary school children from Cervantes Montevideo School on the importance of using kindness, compassion, and an attitude of service toward resolving conflicts.
Previously, Nibia had directed the “Building Values in the Foster Home” program in Paulina Luisi and Inmaculada Concepción Foster Home, which shared family values with foster teen girls and gave them leadership experience. The same foster teen girls took part in Nibia’s program on “Conflict Resolution” as leaders that conveyed similar lessons on family values to elementary school students.
The teen girls in the program presented self-made posters on conflict resolution based on Nibia’s curriculum to the children. Each girl led a discussion with a group of the students on facing conflicts. The girls drew from their own past experiences to wholeheartedly share the value of forgiveness and love in resolving conflict. Although it was hard for them to share, the teenage girls opened up on their personal experiences with conflict for the sake of creating a safer school environment for the students.
The teenage girls taught the children that while true love creates altruism and harmony in relationships, a false sense of love creates egoism and conflict in relationships. Everyone is caught between false and true love. Therefore, everyone is responsible for finding solutions for conflicts themselves. The girls and Nibia boosted the children’s role in helping others through communication and conflict resolution skills. After the program, one 11-year old boy remarked on the importance of each student’s role in preventing conflict and violence in school saying, “I know when people are very sad for something that happened to them, they can be more nervous, they don’t want to talk about their problems. I know that’s because they really need our help.”
The teachers of Cervantes Montevideo School, who were the main supporters of the program, were very grateful to Nibia and the teenage girls for their program contributing to peaceful class environments. Resolving conflicts in the classroom creates the basis for creating a safer school environment, which contributes to creating a peaceful society and nation.