Schools in Romania are more dangerous than ever. According to the Ministry of Education, during the past year, the number of acts of violence registered has surpassed the number of acts of violence registered during the previous year by almost a third. Furthermore, according to the World Health Organisation, Romania is ranked third in the EU in what concerns bullying at school, and studies done for the Salvați Copiii organisation suggest that one out of every two students is threatened, humiliated, or physically assaulted.
Școala Încrederii, the largest education programme in Romania, is calling for a “Revolution in Education” in order to keep children safe.
Ruxandra Mercea, founder of Școala Încrederii, has been working in education for over 15 years. As CEO of Transylvania College in Cluj-Napoca, a school recognised on an international level, has created a new model of education within which every child, in every school, matters.
“I’ve been in education for long enough to see that our public schools can’t cope with this sensitive subject. I remember when I was a student and the boys in my class used to punch me in the stomach so hard I could barely breathe or speak. The girls used to mock each other constantly, which would eventually have resulted in deep emotional scars. And no one was ready to intervene and to support them. The same things happen today, 20 years later. I believe that no child should suffer the way I, and many others like me, did. That is why I am calling out the need for a revolution in our educational system. The time is now. For our children”, says Ruxandra.
How can you join the Revolution in Education?
Școala Încrederii calls for all Romanians to join the Revolution in Education and to share their experiences, from aggression and harassment to intimidation and violence that they have been through in school. The stories can be nominal or anonymous and can be sent via www.scoalaincrederii.spunestop.ro
“It is our responsibility, as a nation, to ensure that every child, in every school, matters. Sharing your story, you agree that everyone should do more to protect our children and say «NO» to bullying and violence in our schools. Afterwards, we will try our very best to make the schools enrolled in our program safe, and through the courses and training programmes our organisation provides, we ensure that our message reaches all teachers, parents and students“, adds Ruxandra.
Experts studying the phenomenon, who work with victims of violence and bullying, say that trauma experienced during childhood has a major impact in the subsequent development as an adult, even decades later.
“Bullying has many forms, it is multifaceted. We usually talk about these aggressive forms, where there is violence, fights between children. But bullying is a form of abuse, and humiliation is one of its consequences as well. If we were invisible and we went inside public schools or public institutions, we would be terrified! We don’t know how to behave with one another, we don’t know how to communicate what we don’t like, what we don’t understand, or what we don’t know. There is a very, very big discrepancy between what we know is happening and what is being reported”, says Dr. Raluca Anton – psychologist
Petronela Petrea is head of school in Iași, in one of the schools that joined the Școala Încrederii programme. She says that the role of parents and teachers is crucial to breaking the vicious cycle of abuse. The adults of today are, sometimes, the children who were once victims of violence and bullying, and should not be the ones who pass on the same phenomenon to the following generations.
“It hurts me deeply to see parents who publicly scold their children, or teachers who tell their students that they should study ‘out of shame’. These people, obviously, have traumas of their own. We should help them acknowledge this, and put an end to the use of this instrument of shame in the shape of education. Because it is not a form of education. It is yet another way to traumatise an entire generation. And what we need to do is raise good children, who are confident and who are able to express their uniqueness in front of others”, says Petronela Petrea—head of school at „Profesor Mihai Dumitriu” Secondary School, Valea Lupului, Iași county
Fear of consequences, indifference and individualism, a tendency to minimise the gravity of the situation and its effects, poor ability to recognise the variety of the forms of aggression, remain the main reasons why students and teachers do not report the cases of violence that they witness at school. Schools, teachers, principals, parents, and students, especially, should stop perceiving violence and bullying as something that cannot be prevented or countered. There is legislation on this issue, but it is insufficient, because it is not a law that addresses the real issue, a fact proven by the small number of educational units that use and recognise its positive impact.
How does Școala Încrederii contribute to change?
● Bullying rates decrease, due to the change in strategy regarding the management of conflict, from a punitive into a restorative one
● It helps the head of school and the school management team to develop their leadership competencies
● It helps the teachers find the best methods for differentiated instruction
● It helps the school team change the physical environment (the students are involved in changing the appearance of the class/school)
● Students assume responsibility for their learning process, through experiences such as student-led family conferences.
● It helps schools take on an active role in educating parents in knowing and understanding the children, through 1:1 meetings with families
● It contributes to healthy relationships between the members in school communities
You can find out more about the programme by accessing this link: https://scoalaincrederii.ro/prezentarea-programului/
The campaign initiated by Școala Încrederii is carried out within the project „POVESTEA merge mai departe–Creșterea capacității de fundraising pentru schimbare în educație”. The project is carried out by Asociația Școala Încrederii with financial support from Active Citizens Fund România, a programme financed by Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway through the EEA Grants 2014–2021. The purpose of the project is to increase de capacity of fundraising and to ensure sustainability for Asociația Școala Încrederii in Cluj-Napoca, for a 15 month period, with a positive long-term impact on our final beneficiaries.