By Choong Jia Shun and Charmaine Yap
From 19 to 21 June 2017, the Peacemakers Conference returned for its eighth iteration. The purpose of the Conference is to teach 13-16 year olds how to resolve conflicts amicably in a workshop cum competition format.
This year, we were delighted to be joined by participants from six secondary schools: Chua Chu Kang Secondary School, Commonwealth Secondary School, Hougang Secondary School, Jurong West Secondary School, Raffles Girls School (Secondary), and Yishun Town Secondary School.
Learning and Understanding
Over the course of 3 days, Conference participants were introduced to basic mediation skills through a mixture of theory and practical sessions.
Topics covered include: the identification of interests and option generation, identifying and managing emotions, along with the very important skills of active listening and reframing. Participants were also exposed to simplified mediation processes, similar to those adopted by professional bodies such as the Singapore Mediation Centre and the Singapore International Mediation Institute.
After participating in the engaging lessons delivered by student trainers and professors from the National University of Singapore’s Faculty of Law, the participants had to quickly put these teachings into practice in four competition rounds.
Despite being thrown into the deep end, the participants continually impressed the guest judges, who frequently praised their abilities to internalise and put into practice what was learnt within such a short span of time.
Participants also got to showcase their artistic flair in the Mediation Project Exercise. Tasked with conceptualising a visual metaphor for mediation, this was also an opportunity for participants to reflect on what they had learnt over two full days of training sessions and competition.
Initially introduced as a light-hearted bonding activity, this segment of the conference has yielded creative and thoughtful metaphors. Past analogies include “Mediation is like a Cactus” and “Mediation is like a Kaleidoscope”.
This year saw mediation analogised to hammers, magnets, and lighthouses amongst others. This year’s crop of metaphors was also especially literary. Particularly memorable were the metaphors that “Mediation is like Raging Towards a Dying Light while Fixing a Broken Vase in a Universe of Hope” and “Mediation is Medication for a War yet Fought”.
The winning metaphor analogised mediation to a bridge which brings two parties together. In their presentation of their design, the team demonstrated their mastery of key mediation concepts of neutrality, voluntariness, confidentiality, and a focus on interests instead of rights. This poignant metaphor crystallised key lessons that we had hoped to impart over the conference.
After four gruelling rounds of competition, Jurong West Secondary School and Yishun Town Secondary School Team 3 emerged as the top-scoring teams. The final round of competition was held at the newly-renovated moot court of the NUS Law Faculty. We were honoured to have Mr Aloysius Goh, A/Prof Lum Kit-Wye, and Ms Sabiha Shiraz join us as judges in this final round of competition.
Mediators from the finalist teams were given the challenge of mediating a dramatic and emotionally-charged school conflict. Jurong West Secondary School was represented by Nur Farzana Syakirah bte Adam and Ashwini Thennarasu, and Yishun Town Secondary School Team 3 was represented by Vincent Su Meng Hang and Elumalai Rithika.
Set in the newly-renovated moot court of the NUS Law Faculty, the finalists had the added pressure of mediating in front of an audience of all the facilitators and participants of the conference. Perhaps unsurprisingly, both teams rose to the challenge, and put up remarkable performances that belied their youth, demonstrating maturity and a solid grasp of core mediation skills. Jurong West Secondary School emerged as the champion team after a long and difficult process of deliberation, having impressed the judges with their steady performance and knack for asking the right questions.
Five participants were also recognised for demonstrating great spirit in learning and growing as mediators. They are Mubasysyir Bin Kahar (Yishun Town Secondary School), Ng Yun Fei Aries (Commonwealth Secondary), Brendan Cheong Zhen Hao (Hougang Secondary), Cheri Teo (Raffles Girls School (Secondary)), and Teo Kai Xin (Chua Chu Kang Secondary School).
The organisers sincerely thank Mr Terence Ten, Mr Nanda Meenachi Sundram, and Ms Rozana, teacher coordinators from Yishun Town Secondary School, for hosting the Conference for the 4th year running. We would also like to express our deepest appreciation to A/Prof Joel Lee, A/Prof Lim Lei Theng, Mr Marcus Lim, and Mrs Chia Swee Tin for their invaluable guidance and feedback, and for being on hand during the Conference itself to provide pedagogical input as well as (much needed) encouragement and moral support.
Much thanks also goes out to the long-suffering student facilitator team led by Sean for their dedication to seeing the Conference from start to end.
Finally, we are incredibly grateful for the energy and enthusiasm shown by our participants. Over the course of the conference, you asked brilliant questions, were incredibly diligent, and very capably put all that you had learnt into practice. It has been such a joy to see how everyone grow in confidence and proficiency as mediators in such a short period of time. While watching you grow and learn, we have learnt much from all of you as well.
For many of us, this is just the beginning of our journey as peacemakers. We have full confidence that the lessons learnt will be shared with our peers, and hope to see everyone continuously hone our skills and grow as mediators.
Till Peacemakers Conference 2018, peace out!
As Singapore’s leading peer mediation experts, Peacemakers has an extensive track record of managing and delivering conflict resolution training for youth at both local and international levels. If you would like to train your youth to better manage conflict, let us know how we can help via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.