“School Without Violence” programme in Serbia
The goal of the programme is to prevent and reduce violence against and among children and to create a secure environment for learning and development.
The programme gives members of the school community (teachers, staff, parents, students) practical knowledge on how to prevent and solve problems of violence when they arise. The programme aims not only to increase their awareness of and motivation for action in this field, but also to influence their attitudes on zero-tolerance towards violence and to teach them communication skills on constructively resolving disputes if and when they occur.
Schools are establishing procedures and creating internal and external protection networks for ongoing prevention and intervention in this area. This programme primarily targets children, teachers and adults working in schools, as well as parents and the local community.
Schools in Serbia – Situation Regarding Violence
The Institute for Psychology at the Belgrade Philosophy Faculty conducted a study in 54 schools in Serbia as one of the components of the School Without Violence programme. The results of the study suggest that violence is ubiquitous in schools in Serbia. The study covered 32,617 people, 28,931 students and 3,686 adults. 65% of students said that they had been affected by some kind of violent behaviour at least once, while 24% said that they had been affected more than once. Verbal violence (teasing and name-calling) was most common, followed by other types of violence like gossiping and intimidation. According to the results of the study, physical violence was the third most common form of violence after verbal and social abuse. It is almost impossible to distinguish between children acting violently and children who have been affected by peer violence. Girls and boys, old and young, are equally guilty of violent behaviour, with the difference that the former tend to practise social violence more and the latter physical violence.
Implementation of the programme started in October 2005. Currently, 165 schools, more than 10% of primary schools in Serbia, are implementing the programme (involving more than 110,650 students and 10,460 adults employed in 60 towns in Serbia).
The School Without Violence programme was launched by UNICEF with the cooperation of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, the Council for Child Rights and the Institute for Development of Education, while the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry for Youth and Sports of the Republic of Serbia came on board in 2008. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed both between UNICEF and all the partners, and also between UNICEF and each school in the programme.
The application process is open all year round. Once schools submit their application, they are selected according to the geographical distribution of the programme, available resources and the capacity of the school and the local community to implement the programme. Implementation of the programme in a school takes around 18 months.
• 58 schools received certificates for successful implementation of the programme (26 in February 2008, 32 in March 2009). They are ready to continue with programme implementation independently and have integrated the majority of programme components into their annual school syllabus and everyday life.
• All schools involved in the programme have raised awareness of violent behaviour in their schools. They are taking serious steps towards implementing the main principles of programmes titled “Zero Tolerance Towards Violence – Always React Immediately”, “Don’t Meet Violence with Violence, Resolve things Constructively”, “First Try to Improve Yourself and Your Immediate Environment”.
• The majority of the schools have developed internal and external protection networks for violence prevention and interventions or are in the process of doing so.
• Schools formed peer teams who organised about 600 campaigns in their schools, including forum theatre plays, recognised as being a very successful tool for learning and behavioural change.
• Parents in schools implementing the programme received a parents’ manual on raising and supporting their children in cases of incidences of violence that may occur. It also gives advice on better cooperation between parents and the school.
• The programme has mobilised, besides the schools themselves, large sections of the public, as well as private and public companies that have donated funds for its implementation.