Features — 24 April 2015 — by Kareem Clarke
Restore Belize looks at conflict resolution

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 22, 2015–The Restore Belize organization, which was formed in May of 2012 as an initiative aimed at deterring crime and other social ills that affect youths, organized a conflict-mediation forum today at the ITVET compound in Belize City.

The program features mediators and others that are trained in conflict stabilization and resolution who have trained over 140 persons to effectively address issues related to crime and violence as part of a pilot project called Mediators of Belize for Youth Service Providers.

During today’s session, those mediators, along with police officers, members of the Conscious Youth Development Program (CYDP), district representatives and other peer mediators discussed the impact of conflict mediation within their respective institutions, and charted a way forward for Restore Belize’s conflict mediation program.

One of the facilitators, Sandra Cadle, spoke to us about the event, its importance and the impact of conflict mediation in schools.

“We’re coming together as stakeholders to look at how do we sustain conflict mediation in Belize, including the different areas that we work on weekly within the school system, as well as working with our social stakeholders,” she said.

She went on to say, “[At this forum today], we have persons who have been trained by Restore Belize over a period of time, and we also have lecturers that we have brought in from the University of Belize and from the Supreme Court mediation program for them to share their experience and knowledge.”

“It was very important to have everyone attend, especially the officials from the Supreme Court who have validated conflict resolution here in Belize because that helps the process to move along. I am happy that my [school] administration also incorporates conflict mediation because it is one strategy that can help us to retain our students in school and also it allows for students to be able to discuss their issues, and you would find that sometimes they would be suspended or given a detention for conflict situations, but that is just the disciplinary part of it. They still have the underlying issues, and so we work around the counseling and discipline in order to have the student understand that there are consequences for their actions, but also for them to look at ways and help themselves so that it doesn’t happen again”, she explained.

Maud Williams High School, a secondary school in the southside of Belize, has been a part of the Restore Belize training program since last year.

Its vice principal, Georgia Griffith, cited the significance and benefits of such training in addressing conflicts which arise between students.

“As a school, we saw the importance of it because conflicts are one of the difficulties that we have to deal with. And what it does, it helps us to find alternative ways to assist students and in the long run, we are hoping that it reduces our dropout rate at the school because we find more effective ways to manage the conflicts with the students themselves,” she said.

“Today’s forum is an opportunity for us to identify what has been working, and some of the areas of weakness, and how to close that gap. One challenge is that because there are teachers with regular schedules, to pull them out sometimes is a challenge, and so it has to be after school, or depending on the severity of the situation. But it has to be a situation whereby both parties are willing, and so that’s the beginning of it. If the students involved in the conflicts are willing to mediate, then we go through with the process, and the process sometimes takes several days or months before it is effectively resolved properly, but in the end, once it has been resolved, then it remains resolved”, she noted.

Jocelyn Mejia, a 3rd form student at Nazarene High School who also acts as a peer mediator, told us that she does her best to teach her fellow students and to create a positive attitude among the youths, especially those from southside Belize City, so that “we can develop ways for more students to solve their problems and make a change in the society because we are the future of tomorrow.”

The coordinators also plan to extend the program to the wider community to target out-of-school youths who are involved in the oftentimes deadly street conflicts that have been plaguing the Old Capital.

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