Exploring a school-based peace club : the experiences of young adults at a high school in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.
Jasson, Lee-Ann Theresa.
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Conflict and violence have become ‘normal’ experiences in many South African homes and schools. Since the home and the school are the two places where children spend most of their time, these are places where they should obtain the most support and care. However, research has shown that violence and victimisation in schools is ongoing and escalating (Burton & Leoschut, 2013). Furthermore, according to Burton and Leoschut (2013) schools have exceeded communities as the breeding ground for social ills such as crime and violence. Peace clubs have been introduced into a few schools as a new concept and have been presented as a possible form of peace intervention. The Mennonite Central Committee of Zambia have presented the concept of the peace club to South Africa as an opportunity for learners to become involved in the peace process. The objective of such an initiative is to impress upon learners that conflict should be dealt with peacefully before it escalates into violence. This study was conducted in a high school in Pietermaritzburg where a peace club had been instituted. Using an interpretive paradigm, the study makes use of case study methodology to explore the learning experiences of a group of young adults in the peace club. Several data collection methods were used including questionnaires, observation, interviews, creating collages, journal writing and document analysis. The case study methodology and the various data collection methods contributed to gaining a qualitative insight into the peace club project. Numerous data sources were used to build the case which is framed by Lave and Wenger’s (1991) theory of Community of Practice. The key concepts of this theoretical framework were used as a lens and included situated learning, legitimate peripheral participation, meaning making, knowledgeability and competence to form identity (Lave and Wenger, 1991; Wenger, 1998; Wenger, 2014; Wenger and Trayner, 2015). Through these key concepts, the researcher was able to obtain a sense of the practice of the peace club, the experiences of the learners, a sense of who the learners are becoming and a sense of their peace community. The findings of the study reveal that the peace club offers young adults a possible means by which to find peaceful solutions to deal with conflict. According to Maharaj, “Learners need to be involved in processes of creating a peaceful learning environment for all” (Maharaj, 2011, p. ii). Over time, members of the peace club developed a renewed sense of trust, improved self-confidence and a changed identity. Through their involvement in the peace club, the value of social learning and spiritual connection was also recognised by many participants. The study does not set out to portray the peace club as an instant solution, panacea or ‘magic wand’ to end violence and victimisation in schools, but rather exposes the urgency for schools to implement a system for young adults to deal with such issues. This study therefore presents the peace club as a possible form of peace intervention for learners.