Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

Week 9 – School Strike

by Lloyd on 02.12.09

In this week we looked at School strike that took place in south Africa and a mediation between the elders and the younger in a village.
This I found was really difficult – was strike actually a positive thing. Young people who were able and willing to be more radical were fighting and making as far as they could a real stand.
The school child was meant to be pretty young (14). There a a few issues that I have thought about this. One as along as we take part in simulations the reality of them is not going to be fully achieved. I think that I have talked about this before and as a learning tool we are always going to be making life easy for one another. The dynamics between a young people and the back story of the black oppression (in this case in south Africa) are just something that we can not similar to the fullest extent in the class room.
In my notes form this week I mention a number of opportunities that the facilitators didn’t take up on. There is something clear here that although non-directive meditation as described the other week) this doest mean that the mediation or facilitation is not challenging.
In the de-briefing at the end both the facilitators said that they didn’t want to cause the conflict to get out of hand and so steered it to a peaceful narrative. This in my mind lead to the conflict not really being solved with some clear outcomes that could have happened and some basic questions needing to be asked.
In this instance they where conflict adverse. In resolving conflict is being conflict adverse a positive thing? or does it just further push deeper down the providing issues that need to come to the surface. This approach is described in “Contempory Conflict Resolution” (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, Mial, 2nd ed 2006, p 21) works well for classical symmetrical conflicts. This is where the third party (in this case the mediator) can take an approach that treats both parties as equals. However, this case was symmetrical within the meta-asymmetrical conflict in South Africa. In the first instance the elders are the powerful party (ie more powerful than younger people) but young people have managed to assert their strengthen and in the simulations where seen as equal parties (I would question if both parties being seen as equal would really happen?) and the meta conflict here is the asymmetrical conflict between the powerful White and the oppressed whites. In this conflict Ramsbotham, Woodhouse and Mial explain that the only way to resolve this conflict is to side with the underdog; however there can never be a win-win situation, as the oppressor will need to compromise their power.
In this weeks simulation, the meta conflict between the whites and the blacks is of vital importance to be ale tog ain trust but also to understand the action that all the parties are taking part in one must sympathise and even side with the underdog (in this case he blacks). Only then can truly can we start to unpack the specific intra-group conflict.
Did the facilitators manage to do this? Well in this case one of the vital this is missing, the understanding of you as an actor. Assuming that the two facilitators are who they are, then the presence of a white mediator would change the course of the discussion.
Ramsbotham et al (p22) using Adam Curle’s model of transforming asymmetric conflicts demonstrate that though conscientisation of a power relation to all parties a temporary escalation in the conflict may be necessary to bring around a final goal of peace. In the simulation the mediators avoided playing this role because they were scared of the potential of the temporary escalation. Lederach in “Building Peace” (p70) uses the same modal to identify the roles that need to be taken on in that wider process of achieving peace.
To consider in real life when we “pick our battles” is also important, for example, within the student movment, I have often want to address inernal matters of the left and many of my comrades do – how this drains from the larger political stuggle is important to note. Would a facilitraor be wise to draw out this conflict while there were bigger political struglres that the groups should be involved in united.
The decidion of he faciitraotrs to work towards as immediate confilte resoution in the santiro me men that people are more able to fight the wider oppression better and more quickly. What must happen though is that the comounites come together and reamin to gether after the conflict and this is what may require the work. To address the generational conclift though a process of transportmatio – could ut at risk the transformation of the meta-conflict.

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Labour and Co-operative Member of
Parliament for Kemptown and Peacehaven

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