Towards a safe and enabling environment for children
Conference of the Ministry of Education and UNICEF on prevention of violence among and against children in the educational system and on the “School without Violence” Network
BELGRADE, Serbia - 9 April 2009
A two-day conference “Towards Safe and Enabling Environment for Children” organised by UNICEF and Serbia’s Ministry of Education gathered over 300 teachers, representatives of local self-governments, pupils and parents from all over Serbia, as well as representatives of the referral ministries, UNICEF and mentors in the “School without Violence” programme. The conference presented the results achieved and future plans for the systematic implementation of activities aimed at preventing violence in educational institutions and providing safe and enabling environment for children.
The Manual for the Implementation of the Special Protocol for Protection of Children and Pupils from Violence, Abuse and Neglect was also presented at the Conference.
At the Opening Ceremony Education Minister Dr Zarko Obradovic, UNICEF Area Representative Ms Judita Reichenberg and British Council Serbia Director Mr Andrew Glass, addressed the audience.
The “School without Violence” programme that was initiated as early as 2005 in Serbia is based on positive experiences of other countries and leans against national strategic documents such as the National Plan of Action for Children. The Program currently covers 165 schools in Serbia and encompasses over 110,000 pupils and about 10,500 teaching and other school staff. In 2007 the Ministry of Education adopted the Special Protocol for Protection of Children and Pupils from Violence, Abuse and Neglect in the Educational System, which was followed in 2008 by the Framework Action Plan for Prevention of Violence which initiated and empowered the system mechanisms for the support and monitoring of the results in schools.
Minister Obradovic certified 32 schools that have just completed all stages of the “School without Violence” programme, incorporated prevention and adequate intervention elements against violence in their schools and established active cooperation among teachers, parents, pupils and local community. Currently, there are 58 schools in Serbia who have successfully completed all steps envisaged by the “School without Violence” Programme.
„The results achieved so far indicate that as many as 64% of pupils state that they know their peers who have improved their behaviour, while almost 90% of the participating pupils say that constructive instead of punishment measures have been used in conflict resolutions. This conference is of major importance since it will enable more constructive integration of the “School without Violence” Programme into the overall educational system, as well as monitoring of the results throughout the system,’’ said UNICEF Area Representative Ms Judita Reichenberg.
„I would like to highlight the importance of the joint action of all stakeholders in the society, governmental and non-governmental sectors , school principals, teachers, experts, parents and media on our common objective to prevent violence in educational institution and also in the society in general“, said Minister Obradovic.
The conference participants presented their activities and achieved results in their schools, exchanged experiences and learned about activities of their peer teams, discussed institutional mechanisms for protection of children from violence within the broader context of creating safe and enabling environment for children.
After a review of the Programme achievements and definitions of future plans, the participants adopted the Declaration of the “School without Violence” Network. By signing the Declaration, 58 schools have established a formal “School without Violence Network” through which school principals, teachers, pupils and parents will continuously work on the prevention of violence and pertinent interventions.
The conference concluded that the implemented activities have contributed to making a big stet forward towards a common goal, that the true changes may only be expected once a whole generation of pupils has completed the Programme and fully adopted the culture of non-violence.
„In order to achieve this, it is necessary to provide an additional impetus to schools to apply for the implementation of the Programme, to establish institutional mechanisms and to additionally train the teachers. The key priorities in pursuing the objective of making a safe school a benchmark for all schools in the country are mobilization of the entire local community in the efforts to combat violence in schools and beyond; further support by the citizens at large; and close cooperation of the business sector and state institutions in the promotion of positive values and provision of the necessary funding for the implementation of the Programme, “ the Conference concluded. .
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