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Bilde: Promoting conflict resolution within Afghan civil society 
Foto: Halvard Hjermundrud

Promoting conflict resolution within Afghan civil society

NAC supports the resolution of conflicts within and between communities by providing training in non-violent conflict resolution and dialogue for civil society organizations.

Prosjekt/ søndag 6. august 2017

Although such trainings are popular, it is not always easy to measure their impacts on participants’ lives. In the following story, however, we see that sometimes our trainings have immediate and profound impacts. 

Where have all the students gone?

In Argo district, a very mountainous area of Badakhshan Province, a large school in the district center has more than 2600 students on its enrollment register. However, one day when a monitor came to inspect the school he found only 12 of the 2600 enrolled students were actually present in school.

This case was presented during a NAC workshop in ‘Dialogue and Conflict Transformation’ for traditional leaders, elders and members of the school Shura from the district center in Argo. Part of the training involved a ‘conflict mapping’ exercise where participants were invited to share experiences of actual conflict they had experienced. Participants suggested mapping the recent conflict in the school about students’ absence. Conflict mapping revealed that teachers and parents had totally different views on why so many of the students were missing and where the responsibility lay.

The school Shura explained that in September 2016, a monitor from the Provincial Department of Education came to inspect the school. The monitor met the school’s teachers and although all teachers were present, there were only 12 students in the school that day. This was shocking news and the school monitor accused the teachers of not caring about the students’ absence. The teachers reacted by blaming the school Shura and parents for the students being absent.

Resolving conflict through dialogue

After the conflict mapping and a group presentation, the school Shura requested that NAC add one more day to the workshop in hopes of resolving the community’s conflict over the students’ absence. Drawing on the training in conflict resolution the Shura suggested that the students, parents, Shura members, community elders and a representative from the District Education Department all be invited to the extra day of the workshop. Normally, NAC provides lunch for every day of a workshop, but as a sign of their sincere motivation to resolve the conflict, the participants did not request that NAC provide lunch for the extra day.

The following day, each group presented their perspectives on the conflict. Teachers explained that although they were present in school, parents had not sent their children to school, but rather used them to harvest crops for money. The school Shura and parents said their children were sent to school, but had returned home early. The students explained that there were too few teachers available at the school and they were not given any proper school-work. This was very boring for them, so they left.

Through NAC’s support in using conflict resolution and dialogue techniques, participants were comfortable to share their perspectives and listen respectfully to the perspectives of others. They gained a deeper understanding of one another’s positions, needs and interests. Finally, they were able to come up with the following shared resolutions:

- Parents committed themselves to send their children to school every day.

- The school Shura promised to conduct more regular Shura meetings and visit the school more often.

- The teachers promised they would pay closer attention to students’ attendance and also agreed to ensure that students who dropped below the required 75% attendance rate must repeat the semester again.

- The District Department of Education promised to regularly monitor teachers’ attendance.

- The students agreed to return to school and stay for the full school day.

- All participants resolved to conduct more group meetings involving all stakeholders in support of a shared approach to school improvement.

The seeds of a new peaceful generation

Not only did the initial workshop and meeting work towards resolving this particular school conflict, it also served as an important lesson for all on how social conflicts can be resolved meaningfully at the community level. Together they have cultivated the seeds of a new peaceful generation in their community.  

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