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Creating a safe, future-oriented living and learning environment is the goal of the Durban University of Technology (DUT). With this aim in mind, DUT’s International Centre for Nonviolence (ICON) had sent three ICON representatives to the 28th International Peace Research Association (IPRA) Biennial Conference, which was held in Nairobi from 11 January 2021 to 15 January 2021.

The three participants representing DUT via ICON, were; Dr Chrysostome Kiyala, (Honorary Research Fellow with DUT/ICON), paper entitled: “Campus violence prevention and student accountability: perspectives from restorative justice and peace education modelled on indaba and imbizo dialogic institutions in South Africa”; Dr Norman Chivasa (Postdoctoral Research Associate at DUT/ICON), presentation title: “Depolarizing communities through football for peace: Evidence from Seke District, Zimbabwe”; Jean de Dieu Basabose from the University of Waterloo in Canada (DUT ICON Ph.D. graduate), Noel Kansiime from Bishop Stuart University Mbarara in Uganda (DUT ICON Ph.D. graduate), Prof Geoff Harris (DUT ICON), presentation entitled: “Tackling corruption via restorative justice”.

Giving feedback on the conference, the DUT’s delegates (Dr Kiyala, Dr Chivasa and Dr Kansiime) said they underwent Covid-19 test and tested negative before departure to Nairobi and return to South Africa.

They report that, among 162 scholars who invited to the Conference, almost half of them intervened physically at the conference Venue, the Multimedia University of Kenya) or virtually due to global restrictions imposed on travels and socialisation to combat the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

“This was my first participation in the IPRA conference. I had represented DUT in several conferences and have conducted several workshops abroad on behalf of DUT over the past few years,” Dr Kiyala said.

He further expressed what he had taken from this experience, especially in the COVID-19 Era; namely the impact of technology in bringing the world together and helping advance the global scientific agenda of peace. The DUT team testified to the importance, diversity, and density of peace research field.

“Beyond the common understanding of peacebuilding equated with conflict transformation, peacemaking missions, ending wars and resolving disputes, we realised that peacebuilding embraces a much larger domain of active physical engagement and contemplative transcendental peace-search and peacebuilding.

To drive home this point, we discussed the dimensions of peacebuilding projects that utilise Yoga as a means to attain inner peace, and increase individual and collective productivity and in research and education,” he said.

Dr Kiyala also underlined other aspects of the conference debates, naturally the impact of digital learning and teaching in peace education and other fields of higher education and research.

“I should note that sessions were adapted to events and availability of our colleagues who presented either physically or online. Some of the major lessons I learnt include novel approaches to embark on the 4th industrial revolution affectively as peacebuilders,” he said.

He conveyed that at the end of the conference, there were sharing of responsibilities followed by the designation of the new conveners for the next IPRA conference he was willing to attend.

“All the abstracts of our papers (DUT ICON representatives) will be published in the upcoming IPRA Magazine. This experience in the time of COVID-19 suggests that research and innovation are key tools of human, scientific development and social progress. I am grateful to DUT, particularly the International Centre of Nonviolence for having afforded us the chance to participate in this conference,” he said.

Explaining more on his research, Dr Kiyala said violence in educational environments is a widespread phenomenon which often results in injuries, loss of lives, and negatively impacts the culture of learning, the mental, psychological, and emotional health of survivors. While universities and colleges globally rely upon punitive justice and restorative sanctions as means of deterrence, little is known about locally based approaches of conflict resolution and peacebuilding such as Indaba and Imbizo dialogical institutions—to prevent violence on campus colleges.

“This paper analyses the complexities of violence in the higher learning environment, focusing on the South African case; it examines current approaches used in responding to violence on campus colleges and universities (retributive justice and restorative justice). It further explores the potential of the Indaba—dialogic forum of conflict management and peacebuilding in the Zulu Nation in South Africa that deals with various communal conflict while prioritising peaceful settlement of disputes, reconciliation and durable societal peace,” he said.

Explaining how his research evidence can benefit and/or enhance research studies in this field, Dr Kiyala relayed that his research will be published in an accredited journal and the third phase of it will consist in direct community engagement on campus where there will be set trials of indabas and imbizos as

platforms that could attempt to address students’ needs and grievances. This suggested “bottom-up” approach of disputes resolution could me more productive as students will also learn to be peacebuilders on university colleges.

Finally, Dr Kiyala contended that any institutional or societal vision requires a peaceful environment for its successful completion. That was equally significant for the success of the DUT’s Vision conveyed by “Strategic Map 2030” announced by the DUT’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Thandwa Mthembu along some members of the Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) through one of the Strategic Plan Town Hall Engagements, held on Wednesday, 21 August 2019 at the Conference Centre, Hotel School on the Ritson Campus. To complete Professor Ashley Ross on the draft Strategic Map, Dr Kiyala added: “peacebuilding is another strand of the Strategic Map 2030’ “DNA”, and that is key to success in the context of recurring violence experienced on our campuses. “Without peace, all visions would simply crumble. That makes peace research a valuable and noble commitment. The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic has been as real setback for most of academic programmes because this deadly virus disrupts peace and the pace of work. Peace researchers provide both theoretical and pragmatic grounds to bravely face the challenges of our time and the adversities we are exposed to as a result of Covid-19 outbreak so that we can move forward with our vision-strategic plan 2030,” he said.

Pictured: Dr Chrysostome Kiyala

Waheeda Peters

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