n Acta Criminologica: Southern African Journal of Criminology - Handling school conflict : training learners for effective peer intervention

Volume 16, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1012-8093



As learners enter school, the degree to which they encounter and handle conflict is an important determinant of their personal adjustment, classroom participation and ultimately, school achievement. Escalating rates of violence in schools in South Africa and the USA are detrimentally effecting the healthy growth and development of youth. There is evidence to suggest that interventions in the lives of young people may help reduce violence (Elliot, Hamburg & Williams 1998). Evaluations of different programmes related to discipline and behaviour show that in classrooms where conflict is handled effectively teachers report less stress in the classroom, more time to handle academic concerns, and a greater capacity of learners to peacefully solve conflicts in the future. Understanding and using conflict mediation skills, learners can be prepared in school for future conflict situations and the prevention of violence in the society.

The role of the mediator and knowledge about effective intervention between peers in schools reveal a critical need for preventive programmes. Conflict, though acknowledged as a natural human event, presents a challenge to the safe and orderly learning environment that should exist within schools. Aggressive and/or violent behaviour may result when learners mismanage their conflicts with each other or with teachers or with other authority figures. Middle school (ages 6 -11) is perhaps the stage of childhood development that is least explored for its potential in respect of youth violence prevention. This study identifies peer situations in elementary schools and targets a method for conflict resolution that can be used by schools with a view to equipping learners to become responsible citizens. Classroom assistants were trained to teach the foundation skills which are necessary to change attitudes and levels of understanding as learned cognitive strategies for peer intervention. Findings indicate that training of learners and the increased use of integrated cognitive strategies maximise the development of peer negotiation skills among elementary school learners, while disputes are resolved in more effective ways.

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