Schools are the ideal places in which children and young people can develop and learn. It is the best place to acquire new values and education on coexistence and living in society.
However, in Guatemala, above all in the public schools, the levels of violence experienced on a daily basis are so high that instead of being taught about values, learning how to survive at all costs is the main subject.
In 1940 in Guatemala, school teachers from public schools complained about the 7 main disciplinary problems in the classroom: speaking without permission, chewing gum, making a noise, running in the hallways, stepping out of the line, not wearing the proper uniform and littering. In 1990, they were the following: drug taking, alcoholism, teenage pregnancy, suicide, rape, theft and assault.
Within this critical situation young males and females verbally, physically and emotionally abuse other students. The rest of the students learn that the only possible response is to imitate this violent behavior in order to survive. Parents tend to justify the violent behavior of their children by arguing that “they have to defend themselves”. Girls are also seen as weaker and this makes them more vulnerable.
In order to break the spiral of violence, this project will train 20 women to be responsible for educating boys and girls in non-violent behavior. These women will all be taking a training course that will enable them to learn the skills needed to carry out activities, in coordination with school teachers, that encourage children to live together in harmony. They will be working on these activities with children in the classroom and will receive all the necessary materials to do so.
There is also a plan to carry out an awareness campaign including activities that help students to build peace in the classroom. The children will take home these messages to combat violence in order to involve their parents and bring about a change in attitudes towards violence within the family unit.
The project also encourages female empowerment through its work to train and encourage women to act as drivers of change and as an example to the young girls who suffer violence at school on a daily basis.
Through education, awareness and learning about values and ways to relate to others without resorting to violence peace can be brought back to the schools. The Asociación Manabí is fighting to make this happen.