We discussed the prevalence and reasons for peer violence in schools, measures of prevention and support, and systemic cooperation with teachers, counselors, social workers, and members of the police at the workshop “Gender-based violence in schools – problems and prevention” in Vares, where we were hosted by the women’s association “Zvijezda” Vares.
Our lecturers from the CURE Foundation, Medina Mujić and Denija Hidić, who work with primary and secondary schools on the prevention of gender-based violence, opened a discussion with the research results collected in the publication “View from another Angle: Textbook Policy and Analysis of the representation of stereotypes in secondary school textbooks in Sarajevo Canton” to see if young people receive adequate education about violence.
Research has shown that young people learn almost nothing about violence and that they generally can’t recognize forms of violence other than physical, nor who to turn to for support.
The content of the textbooks is outdated, gender roles have been noticed, where women are depicted as mothers, wives, and women of “questionable morals”, which supports gender-based violence and does not empower or inspire girls.
The lecturers shared that the young people gladly participated in the workshops on violence prevention. They shared their experiences of violence when they felt they could trust them, which indicates the need to hire more school counselors.
Vares is an example of good practice when it comes to cooperation between the school, the center for social work, and the police in the prevention and resolution of peer violence. In primary and secondary schools, they organize workshops with children and young people to prevent violence.
A police officer often discusses this topic with young people. He stated that the children respect what the uniformed person tells them, but that it is still not sustainable if the parents at home do not support the values that he would try to convey to the children.
Students who commit violence often watch or experience violence at home. Parents sometimes don’t even know that an insult is also violence and that it can be a starting point for some more serious forms. The participants agreed that it would be important to hold more workshops with parents on what constitutes violence, to ensure that children and young people have an unquestionable attitude toward this topic.
The secondary school counselor in Vares regularly holds workshops with young people about non-violent conflict resolution and conflict transformation, and with the council of parents, she talks about violence in their local community and how to prevent it. Through surveys conducted with students, she determines the prevalence of violence in the school and listens to their suggestions for solving this problem. Verbal violence is the most prevalent, and as a prevention measure, young people suggest educational workshops.
The measures that the Center for Social Work can take in the case of child neglect in the family are to visit the children regularly, but parents can be an obstacle in this. The next step is a lawsuit, which can lead to the children being taken away from their parents, which is also not an ideal option considering that they would be transferred to a home for neglected children or a foster family, where their adequate care is not ensured.
We also recognized that social workers have a lot of work and a great responsibility and that it would be important to introduce regular psychological support for them.
When it comes to domestic violence and violence in schools, each case must be approached individually. The workers of secondary and elementary schools, the Center for Social Work, and the police are open to new knowledge and training that will help them to cooperate even more effectively in the prevention of violence and provide adequate support to children and young people.
The workshop was realized as part of the “1325” Movement initiative, with the support and cooperation of the Federal Republic of Germany Embassy in Sarajevo.