Calm mediator Ayuba Jeng reflects on his youth mediation experience and asks do we want schools to be models of or for society?
In year 7, I got into a fight with another student. Ironically in chemistry.
I won’t stress the details, but he started it!!
As punishment, I was excluded from school for 4 days as well as inhumanely excluded from playing out with friends, playing PlayStation or going back for seconds at dinner.
Upon returning to school, I expected I’d have to deal with the stress of ill will and tension between my adversary and me. But I was prepared. I’d been rehearsing. YouTube tutorials and very private shadowboxing sessions, had me confident that the skill needed to pull off some magical combinations had been absorbed into me via osmosis… or voodoo.
As it turns out, my boxing prowess wasn’t needed. Fortunately for him, we went to a brilliantly open-minded school (Bacon’s College).
I was approached by sixth-formers, and asked if I wanted to do mediation with the other party, I agreed.
Later that day I found myself in a classroom face to face with the guy who had so masterfully left hooked and uppercutted me the previous week (in truth, he was the boxer).
We were shaking with anger and unwilling to cooperate. But by the end of a 30-minute discussion, we were shaking hands, apologising and laughing at the ridiculousness of our whole predicament.
And without so much as a fuss or complaint, we were back in lessons, cheerfully carrying on.
Now, you may be curious as to what exactly was discussed in our mediation session.
Still beholden to our confidentiality clause, I can’t say too much.
What I can say is that for the first time in school, I felt listened to.
The kind of listened to where you can see the listener trying to reconstruct your worldview in their mind. So they might see your world from your point of view.
With each question they ask, the detail of this world is increased to them. Ultimately enabling them to offer up profound insights and suggestions.
Although my own case may be trivial, after becoming a peer mediator myself years later, I dealt with cases that uncovered gang threats, self-harming, suicidal ideation and severe bullying both irl (in-real-life) and online that often the students were too afraid to reveal at first.
Mediators set themselves to honouring the very human knowledge that each of us has an entire world of fears, justifications, and burdens within us. All whilst balancing the systems-oriented nature of society and school.
Focused on optimisation, which is important, but dehumanising, many schools fail to consider the full humanity of their students.
Overlooking much, they prime their institutions by solely economic and cold inclinations. A painfully consequential blunder.
We must ask, do we wish for schools to be models of or for society?
I am deeply grateful for the work of Calm Mediation‘s peer mediation service. Thank you to David Walker MBE and Mel Bruce for teaching me and countless others how to ask questions and listen carefully. Still, and without doubt, the most crucial skills I’ve learnt.
Ayuba Jeng is the Founder & CEO of GD Canvas, a digital marketing agency based in London. GD Canvas is responsible for the new Calm Mediation website launched in November 2023. Growing up in Southwark, Ayuba did his secondary and sixth form at Bacon’s College, where he was also a member of the peer mediation team run by Calm Mediation’s peer mediation service. Within mediation, Ayuba progressed to doing Community, Neighbour and Family mediation cases with the Southwark Mediation Centre eventually becoming a trustee where he held the position for almost 5 years up to the eventual merger between the Southwark Mediation Centre and Calm Mediation.
Ayuba has been running GD Canvas for 4 years, but had first gotten involved in mediation 8 years ago.
If you know anyone who is involved in a school governance or other educational systems please consider sharing your thoughts with them. You can request a call back from our team on Peer Mediation page.