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Mentoring programme reduced recidivism to zero among the pilot group of children

Skopje, September 2011: After six months of participating in the pilot mentoring programme for children in conflict or at risk of coming in conflict with the law, the first group of fifteen children now have new friends who are helping them make sound choices. Implemented with support from the EU and UNICEF, the mentoring scheme is a support system helping children to build their confidence, improve school performance and get access to the social services and support that they need to handle their real life challenges

“Many children in conflict with the law are the victims of their circumstances - poverty, neglect and sometimes abuse.  They sometimes get into trouble simply because they couldn’t tell right from wrong. They need positive examples, a friend, similar in age, who will provide them support to succeed through difficult times and inspire them to make sound choices in life,” said Mr. Sheldon Yett, Representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The concept of mentoring builds on the traditional one-to-one mentoring model in which an older individual (mentor) engages in building a healthy and trusting relationship with a child (mentee). Mentors work in partnership with social workers, concerned families and parents, and communities; and provide support, guidance, companionship, role modeling and above all referral to social protection services in case of need.

The programme is being piloted in Skopje in partnership with the Institute of Social Work and Social Policy, Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Ss Cyril and Methodius and Inter-municipal Center for Social Work in Skopje.  As part of the roll out, some twelve professional staff from the Center for Social Work and twenty one mentor – students of the Faculty for Philosophy - were trained on mentoring services. In the first six months, fifteen children in conflict with the law were identified by the Center for Social Work and are now being supported by the mentors. In the first six months, mentoring programme reduced recidivism to zero among the pilot group of children.

“My first mentoring visit to a child went very well,” wrote one of the mentors in his monthly report submitted to the Center for Social Work – Skopje. “We decided to spend time playing some sport. The child turned to be a very good table tennis player so I lost the game. On our way back home we talked about school and how we can work together to improve school achievements.”
A month later the mentor wrote, “Now at the end of the school year I am happy to see that my mentee who was a student with poor grades only a year ago, just finished this school year with the best grades in his class. He already plans to learn English during the summer break.”

 In addition to the mentoring programme, five public enterprises [Communal Hygiene –Skopje, Public Transport Enterprise, Public Enterprise Streets and roads, City Parking and Parks and Greenery] were contracted to implement “community work” as an alternative measure for children in conflict with the law, and 23 of their staff received training on alternative measures and the role of the companies.

“Authorities must prioritize preventive and educational measures - detention should always be a measure of last resort for children. The mentoring programme and community work are initiatives that build on the principle of restorative justice. We hope the results that the programme is producing will encourage the other 29 Centers for Social Work in the country to take up the model,” continued Sheldon Yett.

The mentoring programme is being implemented as part of the EU funded (€700,000) and UNICEF co-funded (€100,000) and implemented “Justice for Children” Project.  With support from the EU and UNICEF, the project is helping the Government reform the justice system for children to bring it in line with EU and international standards.  Focusing on three pillars - improving the normative framework, capacity building, and prevention – the project will contribute to closing the gap between what is written in the law and the actual practice.

For further information, please contact:
Suzie Pappas Capovska, Communications Officer, UNICEF Skopje (02) 3231-150 (ext :127),  072  629 325 or or Irina Ivanovska (02) 3231-150 (ext :107),  072  629 322 or





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