Mr Palm's speech during the roundtable on the "Conflict Resolution through Mediation and Restorative Dialogue in Schools" held on January 29, 2014
We are all deeply shocked when we learn about brutal violence by young people, especially when it happens in schools.
Let me, for one moment, see the other side. There are hundreds of thousands of children going to school every day, and none of them is being violent or thinking about being violent. Hundreds of thousands children grow up in families, where they feel the love of their parents, where parents care about their feelings and how they do in school and how they solve their conflicts. Children who play football with their friends from the neighborhood, hang out, and enjoy the company of each other. This is how it should be. I cannot imagine that a boy plays football in his street one evening, and goes out next morning to stab another student.
Conflicts always exist, even in the life of a young person or a child. The source of conflict is not important - girlfriends, boyfriends, some little secret, quarrel over some pocket money. But when it gets serious, it has often to do with being humiliated, being unable to express oneself, having nobody to talk to, feeling lonely, isolated, having an unreal view of the world, and sometimes having a mental disorder.
No country can turn the school into a fortress, with armed guards and metal detectors. This would not be a school. Protection looks different. We have to address violence at the source.
As said, most kids who resort to violence (and older people, too), feel weak, helpless, humiliated, isolated, not respected. And then there is one in hundred thousand who snaps and loses control and severely hurts or kills another student. Why don’t these children see good examples of how to solve a problem in peaceful ways? What are the examples that they follow?
I can see little evidence that Albanian society has said a clear “No” to violence. Leave alone blood feud, the medieval mechanisms for the resolution of conflicts, which Albania still has to come to grips with. But more than that, I continue to be appalled by the violent language in public life. I am sorry to say, but what do we teach our young people, when public figures refers to each other as gangster, mafia, or evil, just because he or she has a different view about what needs to be done? How can peace education be successful if many people outside the school behave like in a war zone? We in public life, as well as in private and as fathers, must show that we distance ourselves from those who resort to physical or other forms of violence.
For schools and teachers, the nonviolent discipline and peaceful conflict resolution is the way to go. There are programmes underway, one of them supported by UNICEF. But aside from teaching non-violent forms of conflict resolution, schools can better care for those who become outcast, who seem to isolate themselves, who always get teased or pushed around. Often, it may be the quiet, the withdrawn students, who feel helpless and victimized.
There are experts who can orient teachers on how to detect students at risk of losing control, and who need our special attention. There is a draft training package – which we helped to develop - to orient teachers on the prevention of conflict. But it also requires a community response – with competent social workers - to help the family and at home. Because it is there where most likely the biggest source of trouble is – where parents do not talk to their children, where they give poor examples on how to solve conflict. If we look at the statistics for domestic violence in Albania, I am not surprised by the amount of school violence. What do you expect to become of a child who sees the father beating up the mother?
To conclude, schools must not be the source of violence, and peaceful conflict resolution must be taught and practiced. More importantly, schools must be a place where troubled children can confide with a caring teacher or peers and where teachers can see the early warning signs that intervention in the home might be necessary.