Web Portal on Human Rights in Georgia

Violence in schools – 'I might be the next'

25.12.2017
 
Natia Gogolashvili

There are no more blood-stains in the Khorava street # 4 but the tragedy of December 1 affected all streets, schools and the city in general. The recent developments in the country also prove that. What is happening in the schools?! And how violence among juveniles shall be combated– these questions must be answered.

“Today, the main goal of the Ministry is to enhance our work to combat similar tragedies in future. We must start fight against violence,” the Minister of Education Mikheil Chkhenkeli said.

“Future is in danger”, “I might be the next,” “zero tolerance to criminal” – with these slogans, the pupils of the Tbilisi Public School # 51 and citizens gathered and brought flowers and candles in front of the school # 51; they held silent demonstration. The government, too, promptly reacted to the fact and as the Minister of Education and Science said they declared irreconcilable fight against the violence.

As the press-center of the Ministry of Education stated, nowadays, the inter-agency working group is working on strengthening the safety in schools. The group will finalize its work in several weeks and will present the planned activities for the prevention of crimes in schools. According to the Minister, the role of resource officers will be empowered and the patrol police will also monitor the safety in schools. At the same time, the role of the school psychologists will increase.

“We developed the strategy in several directions. First of all, it is increased role of the resource officers service in educational institutions. Also, improved coordination between the resource officers’ service and law enforcement bodies. We also decided to engage patrol police in the monitoring of safety in schools. Besides that, our work on preventive educational and informational directions will become more active, we will intensify our fight for the public order and discipline in schools, against bullying and violence. The group will also work on the elaboration of psychological and consultation services,” Mikheil Chkhenkeli said.

“We work on two directions: on the one hand we want to increase effectiveness of the resource officers’ service and on the other hand to promote coordination between the patrol police officers and resource officers; in this direction we will develop legislative initiatives in near future. We will also intensify our work on crime prevention,” the deputy Minister of Interior Natia Mezvrishvili said. 

On October 17, the Center of Child’s Rights at the public Defender’s Office, presented the monitoring results of the situation of child abuse in general educational institutions in 2016-2017. It is noteworthy that the general educational institutions were first time monitored in this direction under the mandate of the Public Defender. 
The results of the monitoring showed that protection of students from violence and ill-treatment is still a challenge in the general education system of Georgia. The cases of psychological and physical violence among and against children, especially by the persons who have active communication with them, are frequent; bullying is also a common form of communication. Students’ awareness of their rights or different forms of violence, as well as the competence of responsible persons in response mechanisms to various forms of violence against children, is low.  Psycho-social rehabilitation services are insufficient either. 

“Considering the scope of the problem, we believe it cannot be resolved only by one institution. Thus, it is necessary that the government commenced coordinated work and engage everybody in this process. Of course, the institute of resource officers shall be empowered; psychologists, teachers, school administrations and parents shall actively engage in the process. I think it is the issue which requires particular approach. We must investigate the triggers of the violence and aggression in the young generation. Law enforcement bodies shall participate in the prevention. But, of course, the educational system has much more responsibility. The situation is really alarming in terms of violence; this conclusion is sort of red line in our report. It is the problem which has been increasing for years,” Ucha Nanuashvili said.

Bullying is one of the acute problems in the world and in Georgia. It is a form of violence, which is mostly encountered in schools. It means intimidation, oppression and terrorizing. It may be clarified as premeditated, repeated aggressive behavior, which results into physical or psychological trauma. 

It is not known yet how the role of resource officers will be empowered in the schools. Human rights defenders and psychologists say police regime shall not be established in schools, because it will instill fear in schools and will not resolve the problem.

“Without doubt we believe that the functions of the resource officers shall not increase. Because increased control is not good prevention of the controversy and conflict between the children. The main issue is to raise awareness, to teach the law and obedience to the children. We should explain them why they should not commit concrete actions and what will be outcomes of this action. The function of the resource officer may increase only in terms of monitoring; the resource officer cannot acquire other responsibilities considering their qualifications and knowledge. Intensified control will instill only fear and where there is fear, we cannot speak about crime prevention,” said the lawyer of the Partnership for Human Rights Ana Tavkhelidze.

“I understand that police system intimidates the children but the facts are very grave and painful for each of us. For that reason, not only the school and the state are responsible for the problem. It is everybody’s responsibility: starting from the parents and ending with each of us. Until we have the system and mentality of the children that cooperation is denouncement, it is the system when we need support from the patrol police. It does not exclude active work of psychologists in the schools. The environment in the schools shall be comfortable and safe. Adults shall have possibility to discuss any issue with the school administration and teachers. The adults will be as open to the society, as the society will become open to them,” the head of the Davitiani Psychology Center Nino Kereselidze said. 

The specialists agree that complex and systemic work shall be carried out in schools to increase knowledge of pupils and teachers about their rights and different forms of violence.

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