August 2004 Among the many problems developing countries face, education is central.
Those with less education usually have less income and also have more difficulty understanding their own predicament.
Thus, these people are more vulnerable in both social and economic terms, and often become dependent on the powerful in society for supplying many of their basic needs.
All this reflects on the child, who invariably brings to the school the conflicts they face at home.
In addition, many poor children are asked, if not forced, by their parents to beg in the streets or to work instead of going to school.
The great majority of these youths have committed crimes related to drug trafficking.
In fact, drug trafficking is one big impediment to primary education, since children in school are not available to help the drug trade.One can then imagine the limitations this situation poses for conflict resolution practice as it is largely based on rational methods of dialogue and structured meetings in which people are "equalized" around a table.Generally, those who are functionally illiterate know their restrictions and will not want to (or be able to ) fully participate in such meetings.On the other hand, can any better result be achieved without negotiation? A recent poll of 15 to 64 years olds found that only 25% of Brazilians could fully read and write, 8% were completely illiterate, and 67% were functionally illiterate--they could read, but could not comprehend the full meaning of what they read or make a connection to other issues.This is both a development problem and a problem for development.However, public schools in developing countries are facing difficult times, thus they need conflict resolution skills to deal with their problems.Silvana Gallina, president of the Espirito Santo State Reforming School System, reports that the large majority of youth taken to reform schools in Brazil are fathers and breadwinners, despite an average age of only 13 years old.This poses a question of how to negotiate with illegal agents.Should public figures negotiate with them, since negotiation implies recognizing the legitimacy of these agents?Frequently, in large Brazilian towns and neighborhoods, criminal elements order schools and stores to shut their doors and send students and employees away.This hurts the children, who miss school, but it also hurts them because the resulting fear and instability undermines their full learning capacity.