How long will we keep silent about peer violence?!

Many children, often those who are good students and successful at something, or who are a bit shier, suffer emotionally because of the violence taking place at school.

Nađa Lalović, 15, young reporter - UNICEF volunteer
Nađa Lalović, 15, young reporter -  UNICEF volunteer
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2018

08 August 2019

People used to say that school-age is the best time of life, but is that the case with everyone? My friend Nikola often tells me about his friends from school, but never with a smile...

- As you know, I'm an excellent student... maybe that's the problem for some...

I am looking at my long-time friend, and I do not know how to advise him. He is a genuinely likeable boy already turning into a young man. He has unusually beautiful and intellectual facial features, with penetrating brown eyes that always radiate special energy. Whenever I think of a genius, he comes to my mind...

- They never liked me, at least most of them didn't. I've been playing the guitar for many years, and on one occasion, you know, when I brought it to school for a show, they broke all the strings. The concert was cancelled, of course.

As we were drinking tea at our favourite cafe in the neighbourhood, I could see he had a hard time holding back the tears.

- Why don't they like me? What am I doing wrong? Maja fell in love with me there, I finally managed to win her heart. I often hear her expressing delight at the topics we talk about, the fact that I love music and play the guitar, as well as my style and what I wear. I'm very happy about that. But, you know, there was a problem, because one of those jocks at school is also attracted to her. And you can notice the consequences of that yourself… I became a victim of violence, both mental and physical…

He turned his head, and I was shocked by what I saw – there were a couple of stitches on the left side of his face.

- You see, it turns out I'm to blame because someone loves me and because I love her back. I don't know what else I can do in order to feel accepted. You will probably ask me what the school had to say about this. Well nothing, of course ... nothing at all. Those guys were reprimanded, but they do not really care about it. It seems that the school administration and their parents, who are familiar with the whole issue, believe that the matter ended right there...

During our conversation, I felt both anguish and anger for feeling helpless and unable to solve Nikola's problem. I didn’t pity him. Simply put, I was sorry for what he was going through.

And he is not the only one going through this. Many children, often those who are good students and successful at something, or who are a bit shier, suffer emotionally because of the violence taking place at school. Sometimes, simply because they come from poor families they are made fun of by those who have too much and who have become insensitive...

Nikola continues:

- I have received a scholarship. I am leaving for Paris on Monday to continue my education in a better environment hopefully. You know, I somehow believe that I was born in the wrong place, and that success and friendships await me around the corner…

When I finished talking to Nikola, I started thinking about the problem of violence for a long time – I was thinking about both the victims and the abusers. And the latter are the ones I pity! They must be very unhappy and insecure since they need a victim to take it out on.

Unfortunately, it seems to me that we live in a society where true quality and success are often not appreciated. Sometimes, jealousy can be a trigger for violence. Sometimes, one kind of violence leads to another.

But what about adults?! When do they think they should get involved? When do they think they should start listening to the voices of the victims who keep withdrawing because they do not feel sufficiently protected?

My friend Nikola went to France. I wonder how many children have nowhere to hide from what is going on at school, in the family, in society.

According to a 2016 UNICEF survey, one tenth of children aged 9-17 years say that at least one person treated them in an insulting or abusive manner in the previous year. That person is usually another child. Although there is a lot of discussion about online violence, most children and young people in Montenegro say that this form of behaviour is most often experienced in direct face-to-face contact.

Let's stop the violence.

That is the responsibility of every one of us.