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"The school of the future is a school free of violence and bullying"

2019-09-13

Students, teachers and directors of 30 schools from Moldova have started the new school year equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to prevent and counter violence in the school. During July-August 2019, they took part in a series of trainings on preventing and combating violence in the school and community, offered by the Terre des hommes Moldova. While students learned how to deal with different forms of violence, the trainings for teachers and school directors specifically focused on bullying - understanding its nature and characteristics, the importance of recognizing bullying cases, methods of prevention and intervention.

60 teachers from 30 communities, 30 school directors and representatives of education departments from 17 districts participated in the five trainings led by the experts Tatiana Turchina and Daniela Terzi-Barbarosie, under the auspices of Tdh Moldova.

The term "bullying" is new to the Moldovan society and unknown to many yet, though, as a phenomenon, it is widespread, both among children and adults. The experts pointed out the importance of knowing and being aware of this phenomenon, how it manifests itself, how it differs from other forms of violence, and what are its consequences on the short and long term. When talking about bullying, the specialists explain, the greatest risk is that these situations are treated in our society as normal manifestations of social interaction and, in the case of children, as a normal and even necessary stage in the process of growing up.

"It is very important to distinguish between bullying and violence, because bullying is a specific form of violence, and adults - teachers, parents - being aware of this difference, will know how to intervene and prevent the phenomenon. It is known that violence lays within the limits of the law violation, but bullying is perceived by the majority as normal, an element of development, which is, in fact, a prejudice. Bullying can ultimately lead to very serious consequences from the perspective of mental health, but also to violence and even to crime", explains Tatiana Turchină, the danger of not being aware of the phenomenon.

The participants acknowledged that the term bullying – and addressing this phenomenon – was unknown to them before and they perceived it on an intuitive level. The teachers found the information from the trainings valuable and very useful, being eager to share it with their colleagues and to apply the new knowledge in their work.

Vasile Barca, Deputy Director for Education of "Ion Creanga" lyceum from Cuizauca village, says that he has clarified several aspects related to bullying that were unclear to him and he is eager to start activities with children, teachers and parents in his school. Natalia Renita, Deputy Director for Education and Physics Teacher at Theoretical Lyceum from Varnita village, particularly appreciates the intervention methods that she has learned: "I am much more informed now about what bullying means and I found the interactive methods a very useful solution to bullying cases, which we will apply in our school. I liked the role plays, the method of social theater, whereby the child would find the solutions for a problem by himself - not receiving ready-made answers from teacher, but the child him/herself can analyze the situation and reach his/her own conclusions."

However, some teachers shared their distrust that the information on anti-bullying, obtained during trainings, would be understood and accepted by their colleagues. Tatiana Turchina explains that a functional model is needed in order to implement an anti-bullying programme in schools:"When one person tries to make a kind of "revolution" in the school, it is possible to face resistance and reluctance from others. For a prevention programme and a child protection policy in the school, first the speech of the school administration, the director's - even of hierarchically higher positions - matter very much."

Precisely for this reason, the trainings on preventing and combating violence and bullying in schools included participants from all levels - students, teachers, representatives of school administration and district education directorates - to create a unitary framework for working on these phenomena.

Tamara Vacari, the Director of "Stefan Holban" Lyceum from Carpineni commune, understood that the school administration has a very important role, especially at the prevention stage: "We have talked previously with the teachers from our school about violence, we have identified the forms of violence, but now I see the differences between bullying and conflict, aggression, and I understand that we will have a lot of work in the new school year, because the main task of the administration is to ensure a safe and secure school environment. I have several resource persons to support me and I will try to hold them accountable - these are the five children and the deputy director for education, who were also trained on this topic. We will try together to develop, at the institution level, some concrete actions to identify possible cases of bullying in the school and to carry out prevention and intervention activities."

Galina Nita, interim Head of a General Directorate for Education and Culture of Ialoveni District, also a participant in the training, hopes for a school of the future where there will be no more violence and bullying, with a friendly and safe atmosphere for everybody. The interim head believes that the internal school regulation needs to include clear rules for preventing and combating bullying in schools. "For this, we need to know what means this phenomenon, how we can identify it, what are the ways of solving it, how we can get involved and how we can help, both the child victim and the aggressor as well, because, basically, it is about children who may not have had enough affection, and the consequence is the aggression they manifest ," says Ms. Nita.

As teaching material, the experts Tatiana Turchina and Daniela Terzi-Barbarosie developed an Anti-bullying Programme, which they have tested during the trainings, and they will adapt and improve it based on the feedback received from the participants. Finally, this programme will take the form of a printed guide, which Terre des hommes will distribute in the 30 schools participating in the anti-violence programme.

"We set out to describe some conceptual aspects of bullying to help teachers or other adults who will use the guide to differentiate bullying from aggression and conflict. We have also included a number of other psychological information that explains the mechanisms behind this phenomenon. We thought to give information mainly about prevention. We talked a lot about assertiveness, resilience, mutual respect etc., with a view to prevent bullying as a social phenomenon. It is our belief that, when people possess these resources, such as the ability to be assertive, self-esteem, empathy etc., bullying will have no manifestation ground. This would be the idea of prevention - to succeed in establishing social norms that from the very beginning create contexts in which bullying would not be found as a behavioural option," tells Daniela Terzi-Barbarosie about the concept of the guide.

To continue the anti-violence programme, the teachers and school directors will carry out activities in their schools and implement antibullying / anti-violence initiatives. Later, this fall, the participants will reunite in a meeting to present promising practices, share experiences and to plan next steps. Also, for both participants and the general public, Tdh Moldova will offer a webinar on bullying.

The trainings on preventing and combating bullying in schools are part of the "Prevention of violence against children through community engagement" project, funded by the Oak Foundation, with the support of UNICEF Moldova and the Child Protection Hub for Southeast Europe