In early November primary and secondary schools all around Rwanda let out for holiday break. School will resume in February, but until then children come to the Children’s Peace Libraries seeking entertainment. Every morning children from homes all around Kigali come to the library to read, craft, learn, and play.
Francine Muhawenimana, the Coordinator of the Peace Libraries, believes that the holidays are exciting times for the library. She hopes to take advantage of the time the students can spend at the library by providing many activities for the children to enjoy and engage them in learning during the break from school. One of her main priorities during the break is to teach the children conflict resolution skills in the form of peer mediation.
The concept behind peer mediation is that children will be trained in conflict resolution so that they are equipped with the skills necessary to solve their own conflicts and the conflicts that arise among their peers. The staff at TLC and the Peace Libraries believe that giving young students these tools is not only empowering but also much more effective than having a person outside of their peer group step-in to control the situation. Ultimately, the aim is to create a new generation of peacemakers and in turn to create a culture of peace.
The library in Kigali recently held a peer mediation training on site in the Kicukiro district. The training lasted three days and trained 36 participants from fourth and fifth grades. Three certified trainers led the training which consisted of three sessions designed to help children define conflict, identify its origins, and gain the skills necessary to help their peers resolve it effectively and peacefully. The last training session was set aside as time for students to practice their newfound skills as mediators with opportunities for role-play as both a person involved in the conflict and as a mediator.
Muhawenimana, who also acted as a trainer, is happy with how the trainings went and she is exciting about what a new group of peacemakers means for Rwandan society and her local community. “[Peer mediation] is important in our society because we are looking towards a peaceful future…If we help the children today we create a good future for them and for us.” She hopes to continue to offer peer mediation trainings and perhaps even begin to expand the library’s peacebuilding work to include advanced trainings, trainings for older students, and even to create Peace Clubs in order to ensure a sustainable culture of peace in Kigali and around Rwanda.
The trainings will be offered again in February 2017.