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Safe Schools for Children and Adolescents in Costa Rica

© UNICEF Costa Rica /2011
Alexander Villalobos, student at the Professional Technical High School Nataniel Arias Murillo.

San José, November 09, 2011 - In an event held at the National Stadium, ten thousand students from across the country, the President of the Republic Laura Chinchilla and the Minister of Education Leonardo Garnier, together with other representatives from the Government and international organizations, presented the “Programa Convivir”, which aims at promoting safe schools in Costa Rica.

In the words of President Chinchilla, the “Programa Convivir” allows students to finish high school being "good citizens", since the country needs to "live in harmony" and "coexist in peace."

UNICEF supported the production and a participatory consultation process of the Guide for the formulation of the strategy to promote safe schools. This document will facilitate the learning of behaviors that promote safe environments within the entire educational community: among teachers, administrative staff, students, neighbors and parents, explained Seija Toro, Representative of UNICEF Costa Rica.

The “Programa Convivir” promotes participatory activities in schools on an ongoing basis in order to strengthen safe coexistence and culture of peace within the educational community and to foster relationships based on respect of differences, participation, the enjoyment of diversity and a sense of belonging and identity.

Alexander Villalobos, student at the Professional Technical High School Nataniel Arias Murillo said: "We, almost one million students, are faced with a big challenge: it is time to commit ourselves, since we are the present of this society and we can make the change now. Let’s break down all prejudice that prevents us from living in harmony with one another”. The adolescent motivated people to put into practice his definition of coexistence: "living side by side with others even though we are not all alike”.

© UNICEF Costa Rica/2011
President of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla, among the participants.

Safe schools
Each school must form a working group that shall lead and coordinate the institutional strategy. This group will consist of the principal, a teacher, a counselor and two students. The department that works for safety at schools at the Ministry of Education, for its part, will participate and provide technical assistance for schools in the development of the strategy. The aforementioned guidelines are included in the Presidential Executive Decree, signed in September.

According to the Minister of Education, Leonardo Garnier, schools are a particularly important setting for living together in harmony with peers and teachers: "in order to achieve good relationships with others, one needs to learn to enjoy the opportunity to live with other people, even with different, wonderfully different people, who at the same time are curiously similar to us, human like us, independent like us. For that purpose we are promoting the “Programa Convivir” that encourages the development of strategies specific to each school in order to improve relationships with others”.

The “Programa Convivir” is supported and financed by the Joint Programme “Networks for Coexistence, Communities without Fear” of the United Nations–Spain Millennium Development Goals Achievement Fund.

For more information:
Xinia Miranda, xmiranda@unicef.org, UNICEF Costa Rica
Tamar Hahn,
thahn@unicef.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org/lac


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