Mr Palm's speech during the National Conference "Implementation of the Communication Strategy for Behavioral Impact in reducing the incidence of violence in schools" held on 26 November 2013
When we launched the campaign against violence in schools, there still was a lot of disbelief about the extent of violence in educational institutions – in spite of survey results and other evidence. “A little bit of violence” almost seemed to be part of daily life, which had to be accepted and was considered normal. There has been a widespread perception of violence as a legitimate response to social needs.
Let me share a thought that I learned yesterday from one of my colleagues. She said that children can forgive but their past doesn't. The message is clear. With violence, a teacher or parent may be able to temporarily solve a conflict, and everything will be ok and forgotten in a day or two. But the experience of violence will have left its imprint on the child and its behavior, even if the child itself is no longer aware of it.
Last week I was asked by some students whether Albanians are more violent than people in other countries. I told them that all people, regardless of where they are born, are the same. Each society has a few people who are more violent than others, who try to solve their conflicts in violent ways. The percentage of such people is probably the same in all countries. The only difference is that in some countries violence is more tolerated than in others. And that makes the difference. If we don’t tolerate it, we can end violence against children, also in schools. This is the key message of the global UNICEF campaign.
Albania, and the campaign by the Ministry of Education and several other organizations are part of a much larger global movement. A few weeks ago, a regional conference on violence against children took place in Tirana. We are part of a growing consensus. The bottom line is: violence against children is preventable and we can end it. It is everyone’s business. And it must be outlawed. But it requires the active engagement of any and all social partners. There are many ways how we can help end violence against children.
The Communication for behavioural change (Combi) campaign in schools has taken an institutional, systematic approach. It does more than appeal to the good heart in everyone. It provides tools and mechanisms on how teachers and students manage their relationships, and solve or avoid conflict. Combi introduced a New Way of Discipline. It redefines authority and leadership away from the old model of power and social dependency towards a model that emphasizes fair relations, respect, and good communication.
Schools must be a safe place, even safer as many homes. Children are individuals human beings and have to be respected as human beings, no matter their age. We can’t look into every home, but at least we can look at every school. Now, there always will be teachers and parents from whom we can learn how to practice new way discipline.
Today, we have come a long way. We now talk more openly about the need to end violence as a common threat. Newspapers are reporting. Civil Society Organizations are considered to be a credible source of information. It means that the campaign works, it contributes to changing the tolerance levels.
I think – or hope? – that the public perception of what is acceptable and what is not, is changing. We will hear later about the latest finding by those who monitor the situation.
Yesterday, we had a meeting with the Minister of Education on schools as a centre of community life. Many of us were there, as were many other partners. There is consensus that it is a good idea to develop schools into learning centres where the parents can come together, and where the schools are available also for afternoon activity or recreational purposes. I think all of us support this idea. But violent methods of conflict resolution are utterly incompatible with such a vision. I cannot imagine that the school becomes a happy place in the afternoon as long as pupils get pinched in their ear, pulled by their hair, or bullied around in the morning.
I trust we have reached a point where there is much better understanding of the extent of violence, violence in schools, and that is must end. For the sake of each individual child, for the sake of community, and for the future of this beautiful country.