To address these problems, Forum Civil Peace Service together with its Lebanese partner Permanent Peace Movement developed NOVA, a Nonviolent Action project which aims to support students in getting to know themselves and others, listening to, understanding and accepting others and their opinions, and building self-confidence. The project equips teachers with training skills and tools for nonviolent conflict resolution, which they then pass on to their students. It builds on positive self-images and the acceptance of different narratives and includes aspects of gender roles, conflict sensitivity and human rights. In a nutshell, NOVA works towards creating a society where people interact with each other in a respectful, nonviolent way and where violence is no longer seen as a legitimate means to deal with conflict.
The first phase of NOVA consisted of several training sessions for over 40 teachers from private schools and education centres across Lebanon in Nonviolent Action and utilized a video documentary and a module book specifically developed for this project by Forum Civil Peace Service’s Naji Saeed – the project manager and trainer of NOVA. In a first step, teachers were trained in the use of the module book and documentary. In a second step, they applied their newly gained skills by training their students based on the six chapters of the module book dealing with various issues such as self-esteem, questions around how we deal with ourselves and others, how we act in conflict situations, the separation of needs and emotions, nonviolent communication and examples of nonviolent activism. The book is accompanied by excerpts of the documentary Come To Me, a portray of nonviolent activism in Lebanon, interspersed with examples of the work of the father of nonviolent activism - Mahatma Gandhi. During the training sessions, students were encouraged to “learn by doing” by taking part in a multitude of exercises followed by discussions on what they learned from exploring alternative ways of conflict resolution. The students were furthermore encouraged to develop and implement nonviolent activities, such as theatre plays, arts, etc. Over 400 students took part in these activities.
All project activities culminated in a closing ceremony held by Forum Civil Peace Service on Thursday, June 11th, 2015. Teachers and students from 24 schools from across Lebanon attended the ceremony. Nearly 350 students from the age of five to 14 presented short films, sketches, songs, performances and artwork, all inspired by the NOVA training, exhibiting their new knowledge of alternative ways to deal with conflict in their daily lives. Among the participants was also a school for students with special needs. They utilized an especially modified version of the module book and presented a dance performance at the closing ceremony. Forum Civil Peace Service is currently planning for the second phase of the project, which will see it expanded to include training for a number of educational coordinators of public schools, as well as a training of trainers for a group of secondary school students to enable them to pass on the methodology in peer-to-peer sessions.