UNESCO prizeFormer «emPower» student wins prize 23.11.16 | Manuela Flattich
Guatemalan pedagogue Raisa Nineth Palala Martínez completed the «emPower» course at the Pestalozzi Children’s Village in 2014. Now, she has won the highest award for «Exemplary Educational Concepts for Peace». This first-time distinction was awarded by the Guatemalan UNESCO Commission and the Ministry of Education.
Raisa Nineth Palala Martínez received the highest award for «Exemplary Educational Concepts for Peace» at the headquarters of the Ministry of Education in Guatemala City on 17 November 2016. The former «emPower» student won the competition with her submission «Education for Peace: Creative Approaches to Solving Classroom Conflict», which was chosen from 31 pedagogic concepts.
Solve causes, not conflicts
Her educational concept suggests a focus on the causes of conflicts, rather than the conflicts themselves. Raisa observes disputes between schoolchildren and determines their root causes, using her insights to develop creative solutions that solve the underlying reason of the conflict without targeting the conflict itself. This solves conflicts, rather than eliminating them. The 29-year-old encourages children to talk to each other, tolerate each other and show mutual understanding.
Further education at the Children’s Village
Raisa has been working as a teacher in Guatemala for several years and has observed a great deal of classroom conflict. She has watched children argue, fight and insult each other. «These types of defence are used by children with behavioural problems and low self-esteem. They think that they can solve problems in this way», Raisa explains. In 2014, the teacher attended the eight-month course «emPower» run by the Pestalozzi Children’s Foundation. The classes taught her to discern and solve underlying issues that provoke conflict. The dissertation submitted by Raisa for the «emPower» educational course explores the topic of «conflict resolution» in more detail, and investigates the «challenges of teaching for the purpose of peaceful education in Guatemala».
Show children alternatives
At the «Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta La Paz school», Raisa used her insights from the «emPower» course and her dissertation at the Children’s Village to shape the classes with her fifth-graders. Her educational concept emerged from these experiences. «I use fights as an opportunity to show the boys and girls how to behave and respond in a reasonable, moderate manner».
«We consider this prize an acknowledgement of the worth of our work and proof that we can contribute to better education and a more peaceful coexistence.»Raisa Nineth Palala Martínez – Fifth-grade teacher at the Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta La Paz school in Villa Nueva, Guatemala
The award was founded by the Guatemalan UNESCO Commission and the Ministry of Education. It honours educational professionals for their commitment in the fields of human rights, history, education for peace and sustainable development. The winners were chosen on the basis of recommendations from independent experts by the UNESCO Commission in Guatemala and the Guatemalan Ministry of Education.
Peace as a duty
Raisa received the first prize for her commitment with joy and gratitude: «We consider this prize an acknowledgement of the worth of our work and proof that we can contribute to better education and a more peaceful coexistence.» According to the «emPower» graduate, teaching for peace is about more than just good marks. «My duty as a teacher is to show the kids how to resolve conflict and teach them about human co-existence. This co-existence is based on a respect for human rights. It is our best tool for reducing violence in Guatemala in the long term.»
Cooperation with local teachers improves school teaching and makes it more active.