Clown Me In, a Lebanese NGO, has been awarded a UNDP contract to implement the activities of the “Violence-Free Schools Initiative” in public high schools through their artivism approach. The project includes integrating peace education and violence prevention into schools education by implementing soft activities to increase awareness and change attitudes.
Tensions in Lebanon’s Schools
Since the start of the Syrian crisis in 2011, the conflict between the Lebanese and Syrians present in Lebanon became more apparent and has seeped into schools with high numbers of displaced Syrian children. The difference in social and academic backgrounds between Lebanese and Syrian students, socio-cultural factors, and under-preparation of schools staff means that schools are increasingly unable to deal with existing tensions in the community.
The Violence-Free Schools Initiative
Since 2014, UNDP has been implementing the Violence Free Schools Initiation (VFS) in 56 intermediate public schools distributed as follows: in Bekaa (15), Beirut Southern Suburb (11), Mount Lebanon (15), and Tripoli and its neighboring areas (15).
The overall objective of the VFS intervention is to integrate peacebuilding into educational channels in Lebanese schools. It aims to contribute to creating a violence-free environment inside the Lebanese schools, especially the ones catering to Syrian refugees. The initiative involves teachers, students, school administrations as well as parents in every step of its process.
The methodology of the VFS is a multiple-phase approach, starting with the training of the personnel, and followed by awareness and sensitization sessions for teachers and school management, students, and parents on the context of peace education and violence prevention by identifying soft activities to implement inside schools to ensure the sustainability of the project.
The peacebuilding in Lebanon project aims through this intervention to:
- Mainstreaming conflict prevention for a violence-free school through the implementation of recreational and arts activities
- Support the Task Force in each of the designated high schools through the implementation and the procurement of needed material for the activities.
- Promote the code of conduct produced by the Task Force participating in the VFS initiative.
Clown Me In’s Artivisim Approach
Clown Me In believes that art should serve society, by helping to initiate a healthy, democratic debate away from political tension and alienation through artistic work as clowns.
Their work, through art, advocates for:
- A fair political system in Lebanon, away from corruption, sectarianism, and political divisions
- Better social and economic opportunities for everyone, regardless of their sex, nationality, and ethnicity
- A healthy environment and the responsible management of natural resources
Clown Me In uses a combination of street performances, social therapy workshops, and event hostings to work with displaced and disadvantaged communities in what they like to refer to as an “Artivism” approach to development.