Peer Mediation: The Greek Journey Above the Clouds

By Dimitra Mousioli, Greek Family Lawyer and Mediator

I was flying back to the UK after a very intensive weekend in Greece, where I had my first speech about Peer Mediation in my hometown Trikala. The weather was rainy but as soon as the plane went above the clouds everything felt so peaceful and calm.
I closed my eyes and just then a phrase came in my head: "When you are in a mediation session it's as you are flying in a turbulent weather and suddenly you lift yourself up above the clouds where everything seems
And that was exactly my feeling when this 2-day course of introduction and training in Peer Mediation came to its end. Finally, I fulfilled the dream that had stuck in my head when I first came in the UK and I learned about this program: to go back to my country and promote this wonderful tool that can transform a school into a happier and safer place. So, I invite you to join me in this wonderful journey above the clouds - literally and metaphorically - from the beginning of this effort till this right moment.
About a year ago I started a research in Greek schools to investigate how many of them knew about Peer Mediation and how did they include the program in their curriculum. In my help to this was an independent authority called "Children's Ombudsman" that its main principle and concern is the protection and promotion of children's rights. Its focus is particularly laid upon the violation of children's rights by public services, as well as private individuals or legal entities.
Through their Deputy Ombudsman, George Moschos, I contacted the head teachers of the few Greek schools that had applied successfully Peer Mediation and had made a huge impact in children's lives.
The first school that took this huge leap was the "1st Secondary School of Aspropyrgos" in Athens. Aspropyrgos is a deprived area where poverty, unemployment, addictions and domestic violence are in high rates along with the lack of cultural and social structures. Inside the school, the situation wasn't any better. Poor or non-existent relationships between the teachers, inadequate cooperation, lack of solidarity and a high percentage of conflicts between the pupils.
Their head teacher, Angeliki Giannatou, a very dynamic woman, realized that she had to act. So, at 2005 through "Comenius" (a European Union programme for the schools sector before Erasmus), she visited a German school at Rendsburg where she learned the good practices regarding Peer Mediation. Despite all the negative reactions and the arguments of her colleagues, she managed to establish the program in her school and create a safer and happier place for both pupils and teachers.
Few years after 2005, Maria Kotseli took the very challenging decision to follow the very same steps. The school where she was the head teacher - the "2nd Secondary School of Ano Liosia", in Athens - is the most crowded school in Greece (usually schools by Greek law can register up to 250 students but this one had 400 students in total!), multicultural and located in an area with high rates in crime statistics. But yet, against all the odds the magic of Peer Mediation created a new miracle among the children and their teachers. With Maria Kotseli, this loving and admirable head teacher, the school became a place of creativity and peace with many charity activities that help the whole community outside the four walls of its classrooms and with children that feel school as their own home.
A valuable ally to Mrs Kotseli's effort was the Department of Health Education (part of the Greek Ministry of Education) which among other activities supports schools and provides its educational packages (e.g. “On My Own Two Feet” and "Compass") committed to formally addressing the emotional and social development of pupils as part of their educational goals. I quote Christina Christidou, head of the Department of Health in Thessaloniki: "Peer Mediation have direct connection with the promotion of health education as the conflicts mobilise much of emotion and affect our everyday life, our relations with the people around us and the quality of our happiness and our harmonization with the world. The way we treat each other affects our health".
We are in 2009 and Peer Mediation starts to spread its wings with an enthusiastic… hesitation. Three more schools located in Athens applied Peer Mediation at their curriculum: "German School of Athens", "Varvakios Pilot School" and "Ionidios School of Piraeus". It is worth noting that "Ionidios School" with the support of Prof. Vaso Artinopoulou ( Professor of Criminology in the Sociology Department of Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences - Athens, Greece), managed along with the program to export valuable information for the violent incidents that occur in a school environment.
Some schools in Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Florina, Crete, Samos also followed with the same amazing results at their school environment. Seeing these few, sporadic but promising efforts and having as a compass my UK experience in "Maidstone Mediation Scheme" and the support of the "Peer Mediation Network", I felt that it was my obligation to introduce Peer Mediation in my hometown Trikala as well.
I was prepared to receive a negative response or at least some doubt. After all, who was this woman sending an email from the UK and talking about empowering children and resolving conflicts through dialogue and empathetic listening? And what is in it for her?
But none of these fears came alive. My co-citizens although they didn’t know anything about Peer Mediation welcomed this project with enthusiasm and a vivid curiosity to learn more about it.
Four public local services co-operated (The Department for Education of Trikala's Municipality, Regional Schools Commissioner, Primary and Secondary Education Regional Departments, The Volunteers Team of Trikala) and on 18th of March 2016, on a very rainy Friday, the dream came true.
More than 300 people attended the day conference and learned about the values and the skills that Peer Mediation instills in children's heart and more than 130 teachers were trained (in two different workshops) to the program.
The seed has been planted and now we wait for the flower to grow. By making the next step to organize this whole initiative in a more institutional way. And although stability is not a popular word in Greece these days , there are still people who try to change their lives, people so beautifully crazy that will offer their time, their money and their ideas for a functional community against all odds.
And where can you find a better place to do that than Greece, a place full of contradictions but with people who do have in their genes the cells of democracy, dialectic, compassion, fairness and freedom .
We are still at the beginning. There are so many things that need to be done. But we have to stimulate those cells that are within us and we need to act now.
Our societies more than ever need citizens with "noble hearts who have no room for hate" as Aristotle once said. (


Top Legal Stories

Μεταναστευτικό Δίκαιο: Νέοι κανόνες για την άδεια εργασίας/διαμονής

Σημαντική απόφαση του ΕΔΑΔ για την κλιματική αλλαγή: Μη λήψη επαρκών και αποτελεσματικών μέτρων από το κράτος

Πρόστιμο σε ιατρό για παραβίαση του Γενικού Κανονισμού Προστασίας Δεδομένων

Η παραβίαση της υποχρέωσης εκτίμησης της πιστοληπτικής ικανότητας του δανειολήπτη ως λόγος ακύρωσης της δανειακής σύμβασης

Κλειστό Κύκλωμα Βιντεοπαρακολούθησης σε σχολεία: Ανακοίνωση της Επιτρόπου Προστασίας Δεδομένων