A new system for combating peer violence
A new anti – bullying system is being launched and a Memorandum of Understanding has been signed between the Parents’ Association and the Ministry of Education at the last conference “National Action Plan for Prevention and Action against Violence “ organized by the Parents Association at the Hilton Hotel in Podgorica.
The National Action Plan was developed within the project “Coalition Against Peer Violence in Montenegrin Schools” implemented by the Parents Association in cooperation with NGO Juventas, the Union of High School Students of Montenegro and Center for Support of Local and Regional Development and with institutional partnerships with the Ministry of Education and Financial the support of the Delegation of the EU to Montenegro and co-financing of the Ministry of Public Administration.
The Executive Director of the Parents Association, Kristina Mihailovic, said that all relevant actors involved in the topic of peer violence were involved in the process of creating the National Action Plan. She said that they are representatives of the Ministry of Education, educators, professionals and children. A year ago we heard that every fourth grader and high school student in Montenegro said that he witnessed peer violence and we realized that we needed to improve and change the regulations and responsibilities. She said the National Action Plan focuses on parental responsibility and support for families whose children are the actors of peer violence. She emphasized that “when violence occurs it is least important to say. It’s all about education and the problem is with the family which is what we usually do. It’s imperative that, unless we know how to solve the problem, we learn how to do it. We and our children are citizens of this society and every problem we have, tomorrow will be bigger problem for society if we do not solve it immediately”.
She emphasized the need to provide various family support services from the very early age. It is important to mention that one of the models is to provide support for parents from early age and one way to do this is through a special program that has proven to be very successful that’s “Lifelong Health Parenting Program” which could be helpful for overcoming certain problems with the child. She noted the opening of special S.O.S. Line for reporting violence, changing the system of records of these cases, forming a National Team for the Prevention and Action against Peer Violence. Mihailovic said that the National Peer Violence Prevention and the Action Team had already met and analyzed the first reports of peer violence. This was already an indicator and a result of the willingness for solve the problems throughout the cooperation. The representatives of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, the Police and Civil Sector gathered in one place who will not receive information from this domain. But also will notice where additional support is needed which models are good. We Weill constantly work on improving the environment in order to have the best possible response to violence.
The Minister of Education in the Government I’d Montenegro, Damir Sehovic, said that peer violence is a burning phenomenon of every country and one that is not immune to any system and which can be suppressed only by the actions and ours sincere will. The child’s behavior is undoubtedly conditioned by the primary moving environment and the behavioral models to which he is being exposed. This is why we have to solve problem of violence. Primarily, by changing the behavior of each us individually and after by institutional changes. The problems could not be resolved by one person, so we will not pretend that we can eradicate it solely from the school level. Even if we imagine that from this moment on all violence within the school itself has been eliminated. If after called the child returns to a poor environment accompanied by contents that are not pathologically unhealthy which mean we did not solve the problem. Actually, we just moved him out of school to someone else and thus made it complex. That’s why the Ministry of Education is launching a new system of combating peer violence which is not based on complacency of schools but precisely on cooperation with all those who are open including certainly the NGO sector – our natural partner. Therefore, we are going to realize the cooperation by signing a memorandum with the Parents Association. We recently signed a similar memorandum with the Ministry of the Interior and the Police Directorate. A clear message has to be send to children that violence is unacceptable and bullying will be penalized. “The systematic response of the Ministry of Education implies the fact that we have recently built a program to combat violence and vandalism in schools which we will be implemented and controlled by a establishing a body for the issue at national level. Each school will have a peer violence team formed by the end of the year. A cellphone line has been opened which leads to the Ministry of Education through which peer violence can be reported.” – said Sehovic.
He emphasized that the system of recording the violence in schools has been improved and now the school administration will enter data on violence directly into the information system, right away the case of violence. He noted “the guidance on the conduct of school in cases of violence has been amended and the responsibility of the school administration in cases of non – response has been enhanced by adding another condition for dismissing the director and that is failure to act in cases of violence and vandalism. Next year in 30 schools will be hired people who will protect objects from vandalism and prevent peer violence.
The head of the European Union Delegation to Montenegro, Aivo Orav, said that the European Union strongly advocates the protection of children’s rights. He said that “we encourage every effort to find the best possible solutions, models of protection and response to the occurrence of peer violence and support the Government, schools and other partners in achieving this goal. Good practice in EU Member States can be of great importance and serve as a role model and model for Montenegro.’’ He recalled a survey conducted in 2018: the results showed that every fifth elementary or high school student had experienced some form of peer violence in the previous month and added that every case of peer violence had to be reported. “By recognizing and preventing violence, we encourage children to report every form and every case they see in school, sending a clear message that they live in a society which does not tolerate any form of violence.’’
The author of the National Action Plan, Aleksandra Gligorovic, said that the plan itself was designed to be a resource that provides basic information on the occurrence of peer violence. “The motive for developing this plan was not to solve all these problems, because we cannot solve them by any single document. The idea was to address this problem of peer violence and to come up with proposals for some activities that everyone can carry out.’’ She said that the space in which violence is occurring is much wider and consequences of online violence are usually ignored. “We are inclined to say that this is some kind of world that does not exist, but the fact is that it is a place where people communicate. Children and young people need to be taught that they need to move through this space safely and communicate in a non-violent manner”. She stated that working with children, who were recognized as witnesses to peer violence, was recognized as extremely important’’. These are children who do not suffer violence but see it. Our research has shown that most of them, in a situation of violence, does not react or just go away. Our suggestions are to work with the so-called witnesses as much as possible and to develop a sense of responsibility that we all need to have’’.
The author of the National Action Plan, Sava Kovacevic, said that the goal of the document was to provide a safe and supportive environment for children and young people which, he explained, fostered an atmosphere of cooperation, appreciation and constructive communication in all educational institutions. “This National Action Plan has a comprehensive approach. In addition to the institutions that are the creators of the whole system, we have focused the plan on several levels: of the students, teachers and parents’’. He explained that the National Action Plan includes eight activities, explaining that this entails improving the legal framework and national coordination of responses to peer violence. “Also, the activities relate to enhancing the capacity of staff in educational institutions to prevent and act in situations of peer violence, as well as to improve knowledge and skills for nonviolent conflict resolution and assertive communication. Part of the activities involve parents as partners in the process of creating a supportive environment for youth development and education” – said Kovacevic. The national action plan, he explained, seeks to provide support for children victims of peer violence and children who are perpetrators of peer violence in the school and school environment. “Activities are also focused on engaging existing resources in educational institutions to create a safe and supportive environment, strengthen cooperation with civil society organizations and the academic community in the area of creating a nonviolent society, preventing and responding to this phenomenon. Also, improving the cooperation of all actors at the local level is significant ” – said Kovacevic.