|© UNICEF Ramallah/2005/Award|
|Palestinians Iyad, 12, and Nadine, 16, participate in an internet chat about violence in schools in West Bank town of Ramallah.|
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By Monica Award
RAMALLAH, West Bank, oPt, 14 April 2005 - On a hot sunny afternoon, two Palestinian school children were seated in a tiny square room, behind two computers. They were getting ready to participate in the internet chat on violence in schools that took place on 11 April.
Hosted by Voices of Youth, the live chat facilitated an exchange among young students from five Arab countries: Djibouti, Morocco, Tunis, Yemen and occupied Palestinian territory (oPt). The outcome of the web exchange will be presented by the Tunisian youth delegates at the Tunis Colloquium on Violence in Schools to be held in Tunisia on 14 – 16 April 2005.
Iyad, 12, and Nadine, 16, were the Palestinians selected from 28 nominees to participate in the internet chat.
“I was so scared when the chat started. My heart was beating fast. I knew I was responsible for speaking out on behalf of Palestinian children to other school children who are participating in the chat,” said Iyad.
Iyad learned about the kinds of violence that other children in region face in schools. Students voiced skepticism about the effectiveness of school administrators in responding to violent acts against students by teachers or other students.
“The physical abuse is practiced most by teachers against younger students or by older students against their teachers, while the verbal and psychological are more practiced by teachers against older students’” said Iyad.
Some pointed out a tendency by the administration to take sides with the teachers. Girls felt that they were more exposed to violence than boys, particularly moral and verbal violence. Iyad emphasized that living in a violent surroundings has a negative impact on schools.
|© UNICEF Ramallah/2005/Award|
|Iyad, 12, participates in an internet chat on violence in schools in West Bank town of Ramallah.|
Iyad is originally from the Gaza Strip. For the past two years, he has been living with his father Ali in the West Bank town of Ramallah, while his mother Eman and two younger sisters are in Gaza.
“I always heard about Djibouti, Yemen, Morocco and Tunis, but I never had the chance to travel to these countries. I have only been to my hometown Gaza as well as Ramallah and Jericho. This chat is an education without borders,” said Iyad.
Creating sports, cultural and art clubs for students and teachers in order to release their stress were among the key recommendations made during the chat.
At the end of the internet chat, the children shared e-mail addresses. “I want to maintain a dialogue with these students in the other Arab countries,” said Iyad.
The Tunis Colloquium will help both children and adults exchange concrete practices and develop educational programs and policies that help make the school environment healthy and safe.
Since December 2004, Voices of Youth has undertaken a series of events to support the input of children and adolescents into the Secretary General’s Study on Violence Against Children, mandated by the UN General Assembly.
The study seeks to understand, reduce and prevent violence against children. There is a particular emphasis on ensuring that the views and experiences of young people inform the study and its final report, which is to be published in 2006.
UNICEF in oPt
UNICEF is currently conducting a national study on violence in Palestinian schools. UNICEF is also supporting a pilot programme in more than 600 schools in the West Bank and Gaza Strip where more than 600 school counselors are trained on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and develop strategies to reduce violence and its impact on school children.
Other activities include providing children with peaceful alternatives such as safe play areas and supporting to eight children’s municipal councils. In addition, with the support of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), current efforts are directed to create a cadre of young journalists, supporting sports clubs and summer camps.