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Peaceful Conflict Resolution in School Environment

By Rama Ruia

In the global environment there are instances where we witness situation of conflicts and clashes. As per the work experience of Mahila Seva Mandal conflicts also invade school environment. Throughout seventy five years of experience our institute maintained its absolute Gandhian ideology through progressive apprehension. Conflict resolution strategy of our institution as a whole was based on the Gandhian ideology of peace and development. Since inception our major area of activity was centralised on Education. The issue of conflicts would be from the specific areas of our school situation. We feel this area is an important portion of our intervention and socialisation process.

Major areas and instances of conflicts:

There are some specific instances from school environment where conflicts usually switch on. The overall responsibility may not be imposed on teachers only. Guardians, students, management and teachers play the role as per their areas of activities and intervention.

Instances of conflict can be depicted as follows:

I. Guardian side intervention

In some of the instances guardians tackle the school related situation differently:

1. Sometimes they ignore few instructions of teachers and school management.

2. Unwanted intervention of guardians in school related situation creates confusion for students and teachers and this confusion gives birth to conflicts.

3. If some negative notation about student comes at home guardians attend the situation differently and creates scope for conflicts.

4. Misunderstanding about role of teachers, principal and board of management.

5. Egoistic nature of guardians regarding not to consider cultural diversities of school environment.

II. Teacher side intervention

Teacher play a key role in school environment and education process as well. Some of the activities and attitudes of teacher makes the situation complicated. Some of the conflicting instances are as follows:

1. Lack of control over emotion creates difference between student and teacher.

2. Sometimes teachers fail to understand their students.

3. Disparities of attitude of teachers toward their fellow students raises question, hence the conflict is switched on.

4. Lack of deep understanding and knowledge about attitude of students.

5. Absent-mindedness of teachers regarding factors of school environment.

III. Student-side instances

Students are the chief component of schooling and their socio-culturalaspects are our matters of concern. We often ignore to acknowledge his or her socio-cultural background and for that specific reason students usually fail to fit themselves better in the school environment. Stage of this acculturation to schooling is very difficult and this is the specific point of conflict where emotional part of a student becomes expository part of attitude. Lessons of friendship and tolerance become minor at this critical point of conflict. Competitiveness is the another part of student side intervention that leads toward conflicting situation. Being equipped with diverged cultural and social dimensions students usually fail  to fit themselves better in the school environment. This situation often appears new to them. Some painful experience like physical torture, emotional stress, extra burden of homework, ignorance, insult in front of others and acts of demoralisation often make the situation critical and lead finally toward conflicts.

Degree and intensity of conflict varies as per the circumstances and hidden cause. Family background of student makes the conflicting situation more and more complicated rather than resolving the dispute, and people start participating in the conflict with their absolute egoistic nature.

Conflicting situation at managerial level

Scope of mediation in various conflicting situation is enormous for principals, managers and board of management. They often mediate the conflicting situation between teachers and guardians. Even in some instances they take the role of convener and guide. At this stage also ignorance, anger, disparity, misunderstanding and egoistic attitude makes the situation conflicting. Insecurity feeling amongst participants of managerial group creates problem for people engaged in schooling activities. If we try to focus on the methodological approach it may guide us toward higher stage of conflict resolution. Undoubtedly non-violent approach is best way even today. If we consider some prominent approaches of methods the best way may appear on the surface as collaborative approach.

Higher level of - Collaboration

participation and - Mediation

... higher degree of - Instruction

effectiveness - Order

Giving instruction is better than releasing order; mediating for an issue is better than giving instruction; collaborating for an action is far better than mediation. All of them should be based on the non-violent nature of socio-cultural dimensions. Some of the prominent steps regarding conflict resolution in school environment may include following areas :

1. Management of school on the model of collaborative participation.

2. Healthier relationship between guardians, teachers and managers.

3. Considering the nature of progressive society we have to design development oriented schooling for establishing harmony in our society.

4. Foundation of a school is faith on the system and philosophy so it is necessary that the teachers, guardians and society should maintain their trust in schools.

5. The objectives of education is development of body, mind and soul, with simultaneous ascent through spirituality. Foundation of life is based on the skills and mental maturity. It will come only through co-ordinated practice of Basic Education where we usually acknowledge the central role of work and action. Enjoyment is not bad but we must make ourselves aware of its limitations. Unwantedly higher degree of entertainment and pleasure may lead us toward calamity.

6. We have to open our school for guardian side interpretation and decision making process. It would be better to furnish an example to clarify the conflict resolution strategy. When the government circular came to maintain the student-teacher ratio of 50:1 and the situation became difficult for maintaining the quality. The management raised the issue before guardians and explained the situation. The issue was understood by guardians with positive apprehension and the proposal for appointing extra teachers on the basis of guardian side contribution was accepted gladly. In few cases issue was opposed by some of guardians but the conflict gradually diffused with periodical interpretation between management and guardians.

7. Involvement of teacher, students and guardians in school activities raises scope of collaborative participation for establishing peaceful and education-friendly environment.

8. General tendencies of guardians are not to express their interest in school related situation. Our role will be here to make them aware regarding their role in administrative as well as academic side activities of a school.

9. Guardians and teachers must possess abilities to express their ideas during interaction. Not only that, they must maintain their abilities to listen to others with optimum care and interest.

10. Whenever complain comes to us we often fail to trace out the hidden cause of conflicts and it raises our distance between teachers, guardians and management. Our motto at this critical stage will be to reach upto the hidden cause and resolve the conflicting situation.

11. Rather than avoiding any conflicting situation it would be better if we travel through the causes for obtaining peaceful resolution for maintaining harmonious school environment.

12. In some instances tolerance of teachers play an important role in establishing peace

13. We usually consider school as a greater family where a student interacts with a larger family and community partners. More prominently to say school is the site of socialization process of a student. Due to this specific reason school must try to avoid parts of curriculum, containing instances of violence and anger. Through activity, attitude and appreciation we must try to establish peace in life skills of a student. Examples related to peaceful conflict resolution on the basis of Gandhian philosophy would be an ideal socialisation process.

14. We must minimise competitiveness in school situation. Mindset of a student usually gets weathered on the issue of competition with their counterpart. This attitude gives birth to anger and angry mind wears their thought to enter conflict and small conflict gives birth to the larger conflict in ascending order and finally the attitude of a student becomes conflicting. We must resolve this act at initial by minimizing the feeling of competitiveness.

15. Throughout our educational activities we must express our fullest faith and honour for physical labour of all kinds (Shram ki Pratishtha). It plays role for diffusing our egoistic nature and by the process raises our power to tolerance. Likewise minimises scope of conflicts. In this way we become ready for participating in society with greater awareness about peace and prosperity. Throughout the socialisation process within the school our lessons must include some eternal values.

Some of these values can be identified as follows :

  • Lessons of sharing things
  • Peace
  • Patience
  • Co-operativity at various levels
  • Mutual understanding
  • Brotherhood
  • Equality and moral values
  • Duties and responsibilities for a meaningful social life
  • Religious and cultural harmony
  • Truth with absolute sympathy for others
  • Feelings for the others in the environment of diversities and composite culture
  • Philosophy of live and let live

Mahilashram has a prominent historical background of practicing eternal values of peace and harmony. We had sisters from all over India and also in some instance they were from different socio-cultural and religious background. Within the campus we started sharing experiences and gradually all kinds of religious functions and festivals became a common phenomena for all of us. Friendship was so deep-rooted that even now we feel the richness of our educational practice that introduced us to socio-cultural diversities of our nation, thus facilitated in development of feelings for the nation. Our strong advocacy for practicing basic education at elementary stage refers to the plinth work of Man Making and Nation Building.

We feel pleasure while doing things we like most. Our likings and dislikings are thus regulated on the basis of pleasure principle. Here social value like Aparigraha (i.e. not to possess things in excess) comes in focus. We must develop our sense up to that much extent for avoiding the situation of conflicts due to our possession. Possession as per our need is proper and thinking about possession of others is wrong. We often try to categorise people on the basis of their possessions i.e. rich, poor and middle class. This class feeling also gives birth to conflict and disputes.
Our motto will be to diffuse this caste and class feeling at school level through proper guidance and care. We may introduce school dress for establishing equality and ethics of brotherhood.

Development of body and mind with simultaneous awakening of soul is the inherent philosophy of basic education. Here we include both physical and emotional part of maturity.

  • Physical strength
  • Life skills
  • Work experience
* Intelligence BODY * Spirituality
* Memory MIND SOUL * Humanity
* Operation of time and space   * Brotherhood
* Shapes and figures   * Harmony
* Numerical operations   * Peace

We have no scope to conclude the discussion rather its a scope to initiate our understanding regarding conflict resolution and apply the same for greater prosperity in the form of Man Making and Nation Building.

(The writer is the Secretary, Mahila Sewa Mandal, Mahilashram, Wardha 442 001, Maharashtra, India.)
Source: International Seminar on Conflict Resolution (February 15 - 17, 2003)