Saturday, October 3, 2009

Schools without violence

By Ljiljana Samardzic

Sombor, Sept.12, 2009 - Since school year 2005/2006, UNICEF begun with program named “School without violence”. Its main aim is to create safe and stimulating surrounding for studying, working and progress. In domain of this program, violence refers to every form of behavior that has intention of deliberately hurting another person, in physical or psychical sense.
There are 165 schools in Serbia which are part of “School without violence” and lot more are on a waiting list, which, in a way, confirms the effectiveness of a program and readiness of society to take an effort in solving violence problem in schools.
The program is organized by UNICEF in cooperation with Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labor and Social Policy, Government’s Council for child’s rights, Department for education development and, since 2008/09, with Ministry of Interior.
There are seven crucial steps that every school has to underlie when preparing to become a part of “School without violence” program: raising awareness about a problem - accepting the fact that violence exists in school, forming the inner protective network and enabling its efficiency, forming external protective network, establishing trust between victims of violence and both protective networks; enabling the intervention system and school’s self estimate.
During this autumn, it is planned to include 20 to 25 other schools from Serbia and realization of this plan already begun with Belgrade primary school “Mladost” which was visited by Ministry of Interior, Ivica Dacic and Ministry of Education, Zarko Obradovic.
From Mr. Dacic’s cabinet, Bureau for cooperation with media, the reporter of “Serbia Today” found out that Ministry of Interior this year, in July, only formalized its participation in this program. Since the very beginning, in year 2005, Ministry of Interior organized many activities on local and national plan, such as “School”, “School policeman” and others.
Ministry of Interior said that they will contribute to actualization of “School without violence” goals by taking necessary measures and activities in order to increase individual and material safety of pupils and school staff as well as school property. They will also develop and actualize precautious and other programs collaborating with schools, governmental and nongovernmental organizations - all in best interest for children and minors. There will be professional trainings and specializations for school policemen and other police staff, who work with children and minors. The Ministry of Interior plans to work on citizens’ awareness, especially about violence problem among children, to promote project and its goals, but also to inform public about activities made.
In Sombor District, there are only two primary schools included in program “School without violence”. School “Ivo Lola Ribar” participates since last year, and school “Bratstvo jedinstvo” since year 2006.
About the involving process, the reporter for “Serbia Today” spoke with Ms. Tatjana Janicic, school’s psychologist and coordinator for “School without violence”.
“We had to undergo few preparations. Firstly, to apply to open communication, after what we had to inquire all students and teachers about their opinion regarding this project. Then we had to send results to Ministry, after what we got positive feedback that we are able to become part of this project. In the beginning, all school staff had to be trained for actualization of this program. We had different workshops, where we learned about kinds of violence, how to respond in certain situations, about preparation and prevention. Workshops were divided in two groups - for students from 1st to 4th grade and for older students from 5th to 8th grade”, said Ms. Janicic.
According to Ms. Janicic, their school wasn’t faced with violence inside the school as much as outside since “Bratstvo jedinstvo” is surrounded with two high schools. In that case, the possibility of getting into trouble is increasing.
Their school is the only multinational school in Sombor, which shows tolerance in a way, but being part of this project, they wanted to emphasize that fact. Besides that, they were motivated for involving in “School without violence” because they believe that “prevention is key solution for any problem. We are witnesses of the era when violence is part of our lives and we wanted to be precautious, to avoid future problems.”
The external protective network is functioning on local basis. The name and phone number of school policeman is available 24h a day, although they never had the need to contact him, since there were no bigger incidents.
Children accepted this project easily and there are results. “There is a Book where every single incident inside the school is written down. That is the indicator. Less notes written down - better for our school”, said Ms. Janicic.
A team of students who are generally considered as roll models, someone who should be looked up to, is formed every year. They are creative, they organize many activities for other students, and they try to animate other children and to teach them how to go beyond problems and differences.
Aleksandar, Visnja and Milana are 14 year olds and are part of that team, and they said that “there are many new interesting activities; we hung a lot more together than before. Violence is still present, since it cannot be totally excluded from society, but it’s not so common as it used to be.”
Mrs. Edita Sakali, school’s pedagogue and mentor on the project in school “Ivo Lola Ribar” from Sombor, explained that “UNICEF firstly did inquiry in Serbia with children from 3rd till 8th grade and with all employees in schools. After analysis, it was certain that there is a problem of violence in Serbian schools - mostly verbal violence, but also physical and in other forms. Lately, we encountered electronic violence, especially popular among students aged 12-14. The main objective of schools and society in general is to prevent further development of any kind of violence.”
Under term of “electronic violence”, Mrs. Sakali considered different kinds of tortures between students that are recorded by one of the abusers, usually on their mobile phones, and the video clip is afterwards uploaded on the Internet and it serves as proof of power. In high schools violence is even worse, and sometimes it’s related with prostitutions, drugs and alike

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