The Council of Ministers has given the green light to a series of measures aimed at preventing violence and delinquency, with a strong emphasis on the role of schools in addressing this issue. The Minister of Education, Sports, and Youth, Athina Michailidou, stated that these measures mark a significant shift towards focusing on prevention within the school environment.
The Minister highlighted that this is the first time that such emphasis has been placed on schools. Prevention programs against violence were previously introduced in kindergartens by a Council of Ministers decision and are currently being evaluated.
While acknowledging that violence and delinquency are societal concerns that extend beyond the school environment, the Minister underscored the importance of the school’s role in addressing these issues. Drawing on research results from a recent collaboration with the University of Cyprus, the government is moving forward with specific measures to combat violence and delinquency in schools.
These measures include bolstering school support systems and enhancing the ability of school management teams to identify and document incidents of violence and delinquency using an electronic platform known as the School Violence Observatory.
The Minister also emphasized the implementation and monitoring of anti-racist policies at all educational levels. Concepts of civic education, peaceful dispute resolution, and dialogue are to be incorporated into the curricula. Each school is encouraged to plan specific actions related to violence and delinquency within the framework of their school improvement plan, which will be evaluated.
Additionally, alternative learning programs are being developed for children with challenging behavior, while maintaining the right to regular education for all students. The responsible department’s role in addressing violence is strengthened, and parents are actively engaged to support schools in their efforts. New training programs for parents and teachers on violence prevention and treatment are being promoted.
The Minister pointed out that research by the University of Cyprus, conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, demonstrates that well-informed and sensitized teachers contribute to significantly lower rates of violence and delinquency.
Crisis management procedures in schools are being streamlined, with a focus on immediate intervention teams and educational psychology services.
The school mediation program is also being strengthened, and training is being extended to include school guards, ensuring they are well informed about their role. Pilot programs involving surveillance cameras are evaluated and set to expand.
In conclusion, the Minister of Education stated that all actions will undergo evaluation at the end of the year, and the educational research and evaluation center will monitor the progress of these efforts.
The new measures will be applicable at all educational levels, with some set to take effect in September, while others will be implemented from January 2024. This comprehensive approach aims to create an environment where reporting incidents of violence and delinquency is encouraged, and support is readily available to address such issues within the school community.