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Research Areas of Focus

As of January 2000, there are three key areas of focus for research within the IPT - conflict management and safety in schools; transformation of police services; and local government and traditional leaders.

Local Government and Traditional Leaders

In the transition to a democratic society one of the most critical and explosive sources of conflict is the relationship between constitutionally-based local government structures and culturally-based traditional government. Prejudices and misconceptions about traditional systems or misjudgments about the feasibility of cooperative governance can breed conflict and misunderstandings . This can be further compounded by poor policies that act on those prejudices and misunderstandings. Despite the volatility and high level of debate surrounding the role of traditional systems in the new' South Africa, this is a subject that remains under-researched.

Systematic research into the tensions that exist between local governments and traditional authorities along with an analysis of models of cooperative governance can aid the democratic transition by encouraging the peaceful management of conflict in this volatile area. Much of the civil war that has raged between political parties and communities in KwaZulu-Natal is over the distribution of power and competencies between traditional and local forms of government. Since traditional governments were encouraged, reinforced and sometimes constructed by the former apartheid government, traditional leaders have faced challenges to their legitimacy by civics organisations, political parties and others. Violence, mass action, and tribal resistance have arisen in this context in various parts of the country but particularly the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Thus, information that can assist in building cooperative democracy can both directly aid the target community of Port Shepstone and assist other communities with similar problems both within and outside the province.

Monitoring and Evaluating Conflict Resolution Interventions in the Education Environment

Since 1995 IPT has been providing training in basic conflict management and mediation skills to both teachers and students in the schools along with interested parents and members of the school's governing body. We provide communication skills, assertiveness training, build cooperative behaviour, and advance a system called peer mediation.

A second research agenda is to monitor the progress of our skills training programmes to determine their degree of success and to critically examine our approach and methods. We would like to determine the kinds and levels of conflict that exist in the schools before IPTs involvement and then to examine the effect of our material, workshops and training sessions. This will require in-depth interviews and questionnaires aimed at governing bodies, teachers, and students both in the schools where IPT intends to work [before] and where it has already worked [after]. This research will also assist in the planning of peace education materials. The needs of teachers must be formally assessed to ensure that IPT is creating texts and materials that can sustain these programmes as part of the curricula after the IPT has completed its work in the schools.

Other Research

Aside from IPT's two major research programmes outlined above, the IPT monitors and collects data on a large number of peace-related themes. These include:

  • Managing Civil Society Transformation
  • The Democratisation Process in South Africa
  • Cross-Cultural Cooperation and Conflict
  • The Geography of No-Go Areas' in KwaZulu-Natal
  • Indigenous Culture and Traditional Leaders
  • Education in Conflict Resolution


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