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A ‘young’ country on the move

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Mr Palm's speech during the Press Conference on Communication for Behavioural Impact (COMBI) organized by UNICEF and Ministry of Education and Sciences on 12 December 2012

This is a press conference, and I want to give you a piece of news. Most often the media are busy reporting what one person, such as an Albanian Honourable or a foreign dignitary has to say about Albania.

 

Here, today, you have the opportunity to report what 450,000 Albanians from all walks of live have to say. 450,000 people Albanians are about one of every six Albanians in the country – they say – in fact they shout:

 

Stop violence in schools! Stop violence against children!

 

450,000 people – that is almost the number of families that have school going children. I repeat, 450,000 parents of students in Albania have signed up, with their own signature, to say: we don’t want any violence in schools, and we don’t want any violence at home. We want our children to grow up without being pushed around, kicked, their ears pulled, being humiliated, or degraded.

 

We have the signatures here and Dena will talk about it in a minute.

 

These signatures were collected as part of the campaign by the Ministry of Education, supported by UNICEF, to stop the use of violence of disciplining children in school. This campaign is about introducing ways to maintain discipline in school, without using violence. Without slapping a child, without hitting a child, without pulling the ear of a child, without sending it to the corner of classroom in shame, without humiliating the child.

 

We conducted surveys to show what a difference the campaign makes. The surveys show that there is a long way to go. But most importantly, the surveys show that parents want to have the new way – the non-violent way – to discipline their children. Albanian parents are fed up with violence. 

 

This is totally in accordance with scientific knowledge. You don’t become a better person, when you get beaten and kicked. You don’t become a better learner, when you are humiliated. You don’t become better at socializing with your peers – and later in business and family – when you are isolated in school. Let me clarify that we are talking about both physical violence – being beaten or slapped – and psychological violence – being ridiculed or humiliated or excluded.

 

When I was young, I had one teacher who used to pull my ear. I hated the class. Clearly, violence in whatever form, does not make you a better student.

 

This campaign has not been easy. We are trying to change behaviour of adults – behaviour that they learned when they were young, and which has been passed down through generations.

 

We have seen successes, we also have seen some failures. We oriented 2800 headmasters all over Albania, and the reaction was generally good. Some teachers were more reluctant, but most of them came around.

Let me explain one of the new methods. Imagine a situation where a particular child becomes naughty, makes noise, disturbs the class, or provokes the teacher. The typical immediate reaction is to slap the child, call him names, send him out of class or make him standing in the corner for the rest of the time. All this doesn’t resolve the conflict. The child who may be unaware of what he has done, becomes frustrated, and feels humiliated as other pupils laugh at him.

Among many other things, we propose to the teacher, when he is provoked, to stop. Then, after few seconds, take a deep breath, calm down and enquire what exactly happened – involving other students. Evaluate how serious the situation his is – is it really worth to create a fuss? And then engage the student and his classmates. Find a solution, together with the class.

Thanks to all those who contributed, from the ministry, the regional directorate the NGO partners and all teachers.

The campaign is still going on – and we conduct surveys from time to time to evaluate progress. So far, it looks promising. It is difficult to change behaviour – but together we can do it. And it’s the right thing to do. It works better with your help – when the media supports this campaign. When the media supports the parents who signed up against violence. It is also up to you – and all of us – to put an end to violence.

 

 
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