Search for Common Ground, an international NGO that “works to transform the way the world deals with conflict – away from adversarial approaches and towards collaborative problem solving,” has teamed up with Serious Games, the United States Institute of Peace, and the Rwandan Ministry of Education to develop a computer game that helps primary school students learn about the causes conflict and ways to deal with it:
The game, Bana Dukine (Kids, Let’s Play!) is set near a water hole and the characters in the game are the animals that use the water hole. The central character is Little Lion, whose father left him in charge of distributing water to the other animals. As the days go by, the temperature rises, and the amount of water in the hole decreases. This sets up the conflict between the animals over diminished resources. At this point in the game, conflict dialogues appear on the screen between characters, and it becomes the responsibility of little lion (i.e. the student) to choose the best response.
Bana Dukine is played on laptops donated by One Lap Top per Child (OLPC), a program championed by the Rwandan government that aims to distribute more than 200,000 laptops to Rwandan children. Launched in 2008, the program has reached at least one school in each of Rwanda’s four-hundred and sixteen (416) sectors. Additionally, OLPC has trained over 2,000 teachers to implement the game. OLPC is coordinating with district governments to connect schools to the national electricity grid to power the computers. In schools that are located too far from the grid, OLPC workings with the Government to install solar energy.
Bana Dukine is being used by students in the fourth and fifth grades. This age group was targeted because they are old enough to understand the message of the game and they have the reading and computer skills to use the program. The game is designed to complement the lessons in the school curriculum. During the testing and design phase of the game, we spoke with a wide sample of Rwandan children to find out what types of situations and conflicts they typically experience in their lives. The conflict dialogues within the game are based on the feedback we received. For example, in one scenario two of the animals fight over a soccer ball. In another, an animal feels left out because her friend did not include her to play together with the other animals.
In June, SFCG conducted a preliminary evaluation of the game in 20 primary schools, conducting focus groups and interviews, and reaching over 400 students and 40 teachers in each province of the country. The evaluation sought to assess whether the game was appropriate for the students, if they learned new conflict resolution skills, and whether they could relate the lessons of the game to their real lives. Evaluations found that the game resonates with the children and that they, and their teachers, think it is a fun way to learn conflict resolution skills. Focus group discussions showed that the children had gained a high level of understanding of conflict resolution skills and, that the game provided a productive and safe space to learn and practice these skills.
You will find a more detailed account of how the game works here, on the blog of Pauline Nyirahirwa (from where we’ve taken the screenshot above).