Students in Manchester are being equipped as peace ambassadors, who will help to instill civic pride and promote a culture of peace in schools and the wider society.
The Manchester School Peace Ambassador initiative, which is being implemented under the Beliefs, Values and Attitudes Programme of the Custos of the parish, Garfield Green, was launched at the Zorn Moravian Church in Christiana on Friday (June 9).
It targets students at the primary and secondary levels, who will serve as sentinels tasked with keeping the peace among their peers.
They will be educated about the roles, functions and duties of good citizens, learn about the functions of the Custos of the parish and the Justices of the Peace (JP), and they will also be trained in restorative justice practices for children.
The initiative is being piloted among students at Christiana High and the Christiana Moravian Primary and Infant schools.
Education and Youth Minister, Fayval Williams, in her address at the launch, endorsed the initiative.
She noted that it fits perfectly with the Ministry’s civics in schools, restorative justice, character education, ‘Just Medz It’ and school-wide behavior intervention programmes, which are designed to support and sustain a culture of discipline and peace in the home, school, and community.
“Our goal,” the Education Minister said, “is to have a Jamaica where people can resolve their conflicts and not resort to violence as a first thought. People can disagree but it can be done in a way that leaves everybody whole,” she noted.
The Minister also welcomed the focus on civics, noting that it is important that children are taught about their roles and responsibilities as citizens at an early age.
She encouraged the Peace Ambassadors to take what they learn to their schools and spread the information to all students.
“The pilot programme, being launched today, is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to become effective school ambassadors and junior JPs. We believe that by investing in you, we are investing in the future of Jamaica,” the Education Minister said.
Minister of Justice, Delroy Chuck, who delivered the charge to the School Peace Ambassadors, said that the focus on peace-building has become very important given the challenges being faced in schools.
“Through the ambassadors, peace can become the [mainstay] in students’ interaction with each other, putting an end to all fights, quarrels and problems and students can focus on learning,” he pointed out.
He expressed the hope that the launch will mark the start of a process that will spread across all schools in the parish and encouraged the Manchester Custos to stick with the programme “even though you will find people who will say this cannot work.”
Noting that peace begins in the home, Minister Chuck advised the students, when they see adults in their households fighting, to “tell them to stop as they are teaching you the wrong lessons. Far too many children learn what they see and repeat and believe it.”
“When families fight and quarrel, they send the wrong signals to children who are watching them and repeat what they see at home in schools,” he added.
He further told the students to encourage their parents to talk to them, and to apply discipline through time-outs or by withholding privileges like phone use, and watching television, rather than using violence in anger, which could lead to retaliation and revenge later on.
Conceptualiser of the School Peace Ambassador initiative and Chairman of the Christiana Moravian Primary and Infant School Board, Rev. Sacha Lambert, said the idea is for the programme “to be like a tree from which every school in Manchester and Jamaica could feed and be a part of”.
She thanked the Manchester Custos for leading the way to get the initiative off and running and commended the students for playing their part.
“This initiative could not go any further if our students did not buy into it and they are here as peace ambassadors being trained in leadership, civic responsibility, ensuring that they understand what patriotism means and what being a better citizen for our nation is all about,” Rev. Lambert said.