January 30: School Day of Non Violence and Peace
Luisa Pernalete, Fe y Alegria Director in Guayana, Venezuela shares with us the reality of how violence has extended to school environments in the country and the strategies of the organization to try to eradicate it and change it for a culture of peace. This is her testimony:
"I know that the issue of violence not only occurs in Venezuela. Data and reports are worldwide, but when statistics are together with familiar faces and histories, the issue becomes personal. I am not speaking of me as a person, but of the Popular education and social promotion Movement to which I belong.
Last year our national motto was "We educate for peace" and in 2008 we continue with "A heart for peace and for life".
Why do we insist? I will mention some data: According to the Violence Observatory of the Central University of Venezuela, during 2007 there were around 35 violent deaths per day in our country. In the State where I live, in the South East of the country, one of the less populated and border with Brazil, there were more than 900. And in Fe y Alegría in the same State, last year we had 6 deaths by bullets: 4 students, the mother of a girl and a teacher's husband. All in the same school year.
We are very worried that violence might become a culture for Venezuelans. We have become used to the weekly war reports in the big cities. We are getting used to the violent language of the leaders and media that insult or disqualify; we have no data of family harassment, but this suffering is reflected in school life...
We therefore have the challenge to work for a peace culture. To educate for peace is not about educating for passiveness, but for the peaceful solution of conflicts and also to cultivate healthy relations.
We are trying out several strategies for this. Some of which are:
- Vaccination with honey. Last year, in almost all our centres we carried out a vaccination against violence but the medicine was: honey. After studying harassment and the way to prevent it, the week ended with three honey drops per student. Some centres went out to give the vaccination to local markets, churches, parents. Some centres, decide to re enforce the amount and repeated the activity several weeks later.
- Nobel Peace Prize for school peace. A centre in Guayana decided to award a prize to those who facilitate dialogue in the classrooms, those who generate agreements. There was an election day for Nobel Peace Prize per classroom.
- Judges for school Peace. Slowly, the programme, Judges for Peace is expanding. Boys and girls are trained to be go betweens in their classrooms to help solve the internal conflicts in a peaceful way. They are elected by fellow students.
- Cultural diversity is protected. Several centres in the area are true examples of the real possibility of peaceful living between people of different cultures. Five schools have pupils from several native cultures. For example the native boarding "Padre Samuel Román" has young students from seven native populations. Ancestral beliefs and traditions are respected and the exchange makes them value each other.
- Spaces for peace are created among teachers. To address the problem of political polarization, spaces are created where teachers may share not only experiences, but moments of leisure where they can do things together above all the differences.
- Training is given to mothers so that they may cultivate the culture of peace at home.
This is not sufficient. We will have to keep trying. There is no magic formula, but not to act is a path with no end and life asks us to sow hope in an active way".