(Reposted from: Media Indonesia, January 17, 2022. The original article is in Indonesian language.)
Culture of Peace in School
By Dody Wibowo
Director of Advocacy and Community Empowerment of Sukma Foundation
Solving problems using violence is still a common practice found in our society, for example, cases of student fights, murders, destroying public facilities, looting during demonstrations, and arguments using harsh and inappropriate words. The use of violence to solve problems is actually not inherently embedded in humans. The use of violence is a result of learning, and because of that, humans can actually learn to solve problems using peaceful and nonviolent ways.
Creating a peaceful society can be started from school. School, as a miniature of the community, has the opportunity to develop a culture of peace that can be lived and applied by school members inside and outside the school. School culture can be interpreted as a collection of values, beliefs, habits, as well as written and unwritten rules made by the school management to shape the way school members think, act, and learn (Wibowo, 2020). Meanwhile, a culture of peace, following the definition made by the United Nations through Resolution 243/1999, is a culture that prevents the use of violence in conflict resolution, and is built on peace education, promotion of sustainable economic and social development, respect for human rights, the celebration of diversity, equality between women and men, and the democratic participation of every human being. Peaceful school culture is then a set of values, beliefs, actions, as well as rules determined by the school management to become a guide for school members so that they become individuals who uphold various aspects of peace in every way of life. So what does a culture of peace look like in schools?
5S Culture for peace
Many educational institutions in Indonesia have adopted 5S as a school culture. 5S consists of five words, namely senyum (give a smile to others), sapa (give a greeting to others), salam (it means give a greeting to others as well but it is also an Arabic word that means ‘peace’), sopan (be respectful to others), and santun (being patient and calm). Unfortunately, a detailed description of the meaning of each word in 5S is still difficult to find. Does senyum or smiling mean just smiling to others and sapa or greeting mean just saying hello to others? Can we take these five words further and relate them to a culture of peace? The answer is that it is possible.
The word senyum or smile can be interpreted as a reminder for school members to make the school a supportive environment to learn in. When school members share smiles, they show sincerity in supporting each other to learn. Smiles encourage equal opportunities for school members to learn so that no one is left behind. If there are students who have a slow learning process, the teacher and their friends will help them with a smile. Likewise, for teachers, colleagues support and help each other facilitate the teaching and learning process because they understand that they are a team in educating the students.
Sapa or greeting reminds the school community to establish friendships and act fairly regardless of individuals’ background and identity. The school environment is used to learn about differences, power relations, and other things that are important for living with diversity. School members are encouraged to move from the lowest level in responding to differences, which is tolerance, to the highest level, which is celebrating diversity.
Salam, which in Indonesian means greeting but also have Arabic meaning ‘peace,’ encourages school members to learn the values, knowledge, and skills for peace, practice them every day, and actively contribute to creating a peaceful environment inside and outside school. Greetings are not just giving greetings between school members, but how peace-bringing greetings are manifested in various elements in schools, ranging from rules, routine activities, to school infrastructure, which can be used to encourage a culture of peace and avoid various forms of violence, whether direct, structural, or cultural.
The word sopan or respect reminds school members to communicate with each other respectfully. Communication between students, as well as other school members, is encouraged to use good words to avoid bullying. Effective and nonviolent communication skills, as well as the skill to engage in a dialogue, need to be the skills that school members must possess so that if they are in a conflict situation, they know how to communicate their problems well without having to use offensive language.
Lastly, the word santun or ‘patient and calm’ reminds school members to be patient and calm when facing various situations, especially when problems arise. School members are encouraged not to make instant judgments but to understand the problem comprehensively and from various perspectives in order to be able to produce a satisfactory solution for all parties. Patient and calm also encourage school members not to use physical, psychological, or verbal violence in solving problems.
Commitment to a culture of peace
School culture is the soul of a school. Schools that live up to the values, beliefs, and habits of peace as their school culture will equip school members to deal with various problems and conflicts in everyday life, both inside the school environment and outside. School members accustomed to a culture of peace will have various skills, such as critical thinking, problem analysis, conflict resolution, and creative problem-solving. These skills will prevent school members from using violence to solve problems (Gruenert and Whitaker 2015).
For this reason, it is imperative for a school to seriously make a culture of peace the foundation for school culture. School management should pay attention to various aspects of the school environment, ranging from regulations, routine activities, and even the school infrastructure, whether all of them can support school members to internalize peace values, knowledge, and skills. For example, whether the placement of aphorisms from important figures on the school wall to support the school culture has paid attention to the representation of women, or in another example, whether students with physical limitations have the same opportunity to nominate themselves as candidates for student council president.
School culture is not just a slogan that often appears on school walls and is zero in implementation. Instead, school culture is the commitment of the school management and school members who are aware that a good school culture will shape school members into good individuals who will be able to contribute to the transformation of bad cultures in society. Furthermore, if we want to change the culture of violence in society, forming and strengthening a culture of peace in schools should be one of our efforts to achieve the transformation.