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150 children from 30 schools in Moldova become agents of change to combat violence

2019-08-19

150 children, aged between 12 and 17, from 30 communities in Moldova, learned this summer how to prevent and combat violence in their schools and communities. The trainings took place during the whole month of July, being provided by Terre des hommes Moldova, within the summer school ALEG (Adolescent Leaders for Gender Equality). Topics such as bullying, tolerance, diversity, gender equality were on the school agenda. Children also learned strategies for resilience and emotion management, self-awareness, stress management, how to resolve conflicts peacefully and effectively.

Anatol Oprea, child protection specialist at Tdh Moldova and the project manager pointed out that children studied these topics through a non-formal approach. "We taught them how to do peer-to-peer activities, how to stage social theatre performances and how to develop a community initiative in order to solve the problems they identify."

A particular focus, during the trainings, was on bullying. Although this phenomenon is widespread in the local society and culture, not only among children, but also among adults alike, it goes unnoticed and is often accepted as normal. As a result, children who face this form of aggression, most of the time, do not have the support and protection of adults.

The psychologist Daniela Terzi-Barbarosie says that bullying is part of the violent behaviours spectrum, but it differs from the "classic" aggression by several distinctive elements. It is essential that adults working with children are aware of these elements and know how to identify them. "First of all, this behaviour is intentional. The person, who uses this type of social interaction, really wants to cause discomfort, humiliation or pain. Then, this behaviour tends to be repetitive, it never occurs in a single episode, as opposed to acts of spontaneous violence between children. A bullying act will be repeated over and over again and will never stop by itself without intervention. Another feature is that bullying, unlike conflicts, is never between the victim and the aggressor; it is a group phenomenon, because the person who commits an act of bullying needs the so-called "fan group" and the act of aggression he or she commits is for the sake of this support group, to be validated by it, to be popular." And last, but not least, explains the psychologist, "a person who constantly bullies starts to get pleasure from this act."

"One method we used to raise awareness among children was the Forum Theatre. They had to stage real-life situations of bullying they or their colleagues experienced, putting themselves in the shoes of the aggressor, his supporters and the victim", says Teodora Rebeja, programme manager at Tdh Moldova and trainer at ALEG summer school. "Some of the situations exposed by the children were extremely harsh, for example, the case of a girl who was thrown over the window by her colleagues. Other simulated situations reflected cases when teachers become victims of bullying done by children or, on the contrary, when the teacher is the aggressor. Children had very intense experiences and reactions during these simulations, some of them reliving painful moments and situations, admitting that they also went through bullying situations. Even children who were initially convinced that there is no bullying in their schools, were affected during the simulations and realized that this phenomenon is present in their schools as well, but the cases of bullying are not recognized and nobody is aware of them and, thus, are omitted."

Teodora Rebeja stressed that children are affected and live very intensely such cases, the most painful being, however, the feeling of helplessness, that they do not see solutions to the bullying situations they are exposed to. The consequences - especially if they have no one to support them, neither adults, nor children - can be very serious, such as the child leaving the school, somatization and even suicide attempts.

Vasile Stoler, a gymnasium student from Tocuz village, Causeni district, says that during the trainings he "discovered how to overcome bullying, what methods to use and how to intervene if one sees cases of bullying in school. I was exposed myself to this phenomenon, but I also intervened in bullying situations", the boy concludes.

Five studens from each school of the 30 project communities participated in the summer school ALEG. Starting this autumn, these children will create initiative groups and will act as agents of change in their schools to reduce violence. The initiative groups will implement the gained knowledge over the summer and will carry out activities in their schools, engaging other colleagues, identifying together the problems and the difficult situations. They will stage social theatre performances, will do peer-to-peer education, and will develop community initiatives to draw the attention of the entire community and to find reliable solutions.

Tamara Balamatiuc, student in the 11th grade of the Theoretical High School from Sculeni, says that all the information she has obtained at the summer school will continue to be useful and she is looking forward to passing it on to her colleagues. "Everything I learned during this training was new to me and I want to pass on this information to the children in my school. In particular, I want to do peer-to-peer lessons with my colleagues and talk about violence and bullying. I want to gather as many children as possible in my group and carry out as many activities as possible", says Tamara.

In order to be able to hold their meetings and activities, the initiative groups will set up ALEG clubs in their schools - a classroom that students will arrange by themselves, according to their own ideas. To design the clubs, children will apply the skills they have gained during the graffiti workshop held by the artist Izzy Izvne, while Terre des hommes will help to equip them.

At the same time as the trainings for children, Terre des hommes Moldova also conducted a series of trainings for adults, attended by 60 teachers from the 30 project communities and 30 school directors and representatives of 17 educational districts

ALEG Summer School took place within the project "Preventing Violence Against Children through Community Engagement", implemented by Terre des hommes Moldova, between 2018 and 2021, in 30 communities around the country, with the support of Oak Foundation and UNICEF Moldova.

More photos from the event can be found herehere, and here.