By Lizzy Ioannidou
A six-pillar national strategy with a view to preventing and managing violence in schools was announced by Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris on Friday.
“The measures and actions included in the national strategy strongly convey the message that no form of violence should be tolerated and that each member of the school community, and especially each pupil, has the right to feel safe in school and enjoy the learning process,” Hambiaouris said after the presentation of the national strategy.
Promoting a safe school environment, and responding in the best way possible to pupils’ emotional and social needs, was a central concern for the state, he said.
“Recognising that the phenomenon of violence at school has complex causes and is associated with a variety of social phenomena that have occurred in modern society, the national strategy aims at multi-dimensional and multi-level partnerships,” Hambiaouris added.
The design of the national strategy is based on scientific knowledge, he said, such as the UN convention on the rights of the child, guidelines from international organisations, the experience of government departments – education, welfare, health, and justice, NGOs, associations, as well as the views of organised groups such a students, parents and teachers.
The measures and actions included in the national strategy are organised around six pillars, Hambiaouris said.
The first is the creation of mechanisms for collecting, codifying and analysing data, and then reporting key outcomes about the phenomenon of violence at school.
“Such data is necessary for mapping the situation regarding the extent and forms of violence at school, identifying needs, drawing up action plans and interventions and evaluating the effectiveness of such interventions and the extent to which they contribute to reduce violence,” he said.
The second pillar concerns legal and administrative measures aimed at protecting pupils from all forms of violence and facilitating their access to rehabilitation and support services, as well as on strengthening the regulations for public primary and secondary schools.
The third pillar of measures, Hambiouris continued, aims to strengthen the structures around the phenomenon of preventing and managing violence at school.
“In particular, it is intended to strengthen the multidisciplinary service model that is used, which includes social welfare, health, education, psychological support and guidance for children and their parents or guardians.”
The fourth pillar is about enriching knowledge and enhancing skills for students to develop peaceful attitudes and behaviours.
The fifth pillar focuses on promoting the active participation of pupils themselves in preventing and tackling the phenomenon of violence at school.
“Children’s own participation contributes to the acquisition of personal knowledge and the development of skills, ensures that interventions respond to their needs, contributes to their effectiveness and thus helps to reduce incidents of violence at school,” he added.
The last pillar of action seeks to empower the parents or guardians, the teachers and the management team.
“It includes measures aimed, on the one hand, at strengthening the institution of the family and its social functions and, on the other hand, in the supportive function that the school framework must have.”