Statement by UNICEF Representative, Benjamin Perks on Violence in Schools

25 July 2018
A child sitting alone in a classroom with his head leaned on the chair in front of him

SKOPJE, 16 April 2018:  “UNICEF notes with concern the situation of violence against and among children in schools in this country.  The recent incident involving students in Negotino elementary school “Goce Delcev” is compelling evidence of the need to re-examine how violent behavior is managed in the education system, and in the community as a whole. 

Violence in schools is primarily a reflection of what is happening in the home, and what is happening in the community as a whole. In this country 7 out of 10 children between the ages of 2 and 14, are disciplined at home using violent methods - physical punishment or psychological aggression. Children who have experienced sustained bullying or other forms of violence in schools are more likely to perpetuate the violence at home as well as suffer long term psychological damage. Bullying is often a cry for help. Children who use violence are often victims of violence themselves.

Creating schools free of violence requires creating environments where violence is never tolerated. When we talk about creating safe and protective school environments we refer to creating positive school climates, where positive relationships thrive and where all members of the school community feel respected, safe and secure. We know from evidence from other European countries that responding to violence in schools with increased control and sanctions is unlikely to solve the problem in the long term.

To achieve this, capacities of teachers for prevention of violent behavior need to be strengthened. The approach of prevention and support versus control and punishment involves helping students to develop their communication and emotional skills, building self-confidence and capacity for empathy.

Also mechanisms for intervention in cases of violence that help prevent a recurrence need to be in place.

And finally the situation calls for strengthening collaboration among institutions and organizations. Safe schools do not just happen; they are created and sustained by people dedicated to ensuring positive, respectful relationships and environments. These people are the whole-school community - children, teachers, school staff, parents, and the wider community.” 

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