While universities are intended to be centers of learning and knowledge-sharing, they are not always free from conflict. In Madagascar, the 20,000 students at the University of Antananarivo struggled with violence on a divided campus when student organizations split between different regional origins and political affiliations. The University, an example of Madagascar’s potential for conflict or peace, lacked any sense of national unity or shared college pride.
To help bridge the gaps between these students, we created Together Web in 2012, a website for students to share their common voices for peace. Managed and updated by trained students, the website posts regular content to promote non-violence and unity, shares stories from positive role models, and discusses constructive solutions to university issues. To supplement the website, we provided conflict management training workshops so youth could learn to voice their problems without resorting to violence.
A Peace Ambassador competition was also created to encourage students to apply their new skills in everyday life to better the university. The project had positive impacts on many students, including Ravelomanantsoa Be-Rija, a medicine student and an influential leader on campus who always participated in protests. Now, instead of strikes and other protests, he prefers to focus on more peaceful ways to express his claims.
“Since I participated in this training in conflict management and peace given by SFCG Madagascar, I became ‘a man of dialogue.’ Before the training, when a conflict would arise, I would act otherwise: instead of using dialogue to solve a problem, I would not care; sometimes I would use violence… Now, to be honest, I can tell you that I became a new man: less aggressive and with more control of myself, more open and more responsive to the problems of others, not only at the university but also the problems of my friends and my family.”