Young people around the world mark the International Day against bullying, the “Pink shirt day,” and it is observed in the last Wednesday in February in countries around the world. This day has been celebrated since 2007, when a boy in Canada was subjected to bullying because of coming to school in a pink T-shirt. Peers ridiculed, mentally and physically abused the boy who was wearing a pink shirt
. It turned out later that the boy’s T-shirt was symbolizing the support to his terminally ill mother with breast cancer. Classmates showed solidarity with the abused boy, and the following day, everyone showed up at school in pink shirts. Since then, a pink T-shirt became a symbol of the fight against bullying and has become a recognizable symbol for the initiatives and internationally recognized anniversary of prevention of bullying in schools.
Violence among children in schools in BiH
When it comes to the research of violence against and among children that have been conducted in the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is important to note that there were more of them conducted, using various methods, operated by different institutions and that it consisted of different parts, i.e., cantons and regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina. These studies have shown that violence exists and that it is necessary to find and provide the appropriate mechanisms of prevention.
Within the project “Support Mechanism for Violence Prevention and SALW Risk Reduction,” which was under the auspices of UNICEF BiH implemented by the Genesis Project in 2014, a research was conducted with the objective to investigate the violent behaviours of the students at school, as well as their causes and consequences, as perceived by the students and teachers. The research was conducted in 16 schools involved in the project in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The research was conducted on a sample of 1537 students and 229 teachers from 16 schools in Bosnia and Herzegovina and provided an overview of important aspects of the preventive action, concerning the violent behaviour of pupils and response of the professionals in the schools.
Regarding the frequency of violent behaviour in our sample, the following data were obtained:
• 41.6% of students stated that someone has been violent towards them at some point, and
• 30.08% of them said that they were violent towards someone.
The obtained results suggest that violence among peers is noticeable and that the prevalent violent behaviours are physical and verbal violence, while social violence is less present. Students, according to the information received, choose the place and time, when adults are not present, to be violent to each other.
This data was expected, because the violent behaviour of students in front of adults was not expected, which means that even nowadays the teachers have authority over the students, however the moment they are not present, the children are using the opportunity to settle accounts with each other.
The conclusion of this research is that the situation in our schools is not dramatic, when violence against and among children is in question, but in order to prevent it to become dramatic, it is necessary to act using the prevention programs, during the activities with the teachers, as well as with the students and parents.
Our years of experience in elementary schools across BiH have shown that there is a tendency to deny the existence of violence against and among children in schools.
Some teachers, professional associates and principals distance themselves from the problem as follows:
denial ( “We do not have this problem.”);
minimizing ( “Name-calling and mocking is normal”);
rationalization ( “Children need to learn to fight for themselves”);
justification ( “If the times are different something might be done”);
imputation ( “Parents do not take responsibility for the behaviour of their children”);
avoiding ( “Violence should be dealt with by someone else, I’m just a teacher”).
Why is it necessary to work on prevention of violence?
The teachers are almost constantly confronted with violent and destructive behaviour of students.
With the development of social networks the images of violence in schools are often available outside of classrooms and school yards and frequently shock the public.
Students compete in recording and taking photos of violence.
In accordance with everything stated herein, the NGO “Genesis Project” has been continually implementing the projects aimed at the prevention of bullying and the establishment of effective mechanisms that enable schools to deal effectively with the occurrence of violence against and among children.
One of the activities that the NGO “Genesis Project” has been currently implementing, having as its main objective the prevention of bullying, is the activity “Strengthening the capacity of professionals in education in the prevention, identification and response to cases of violence in primary schools,” in selected elementary schools throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. The activity “Strengthening the capacity of professionals in education in the prevention, identification and response to cases of violence in primary schools” is part of a large regional program entitled “Protecting children from violence and promoting social inclusion of children with disabilities in Western Balkans and Turkey” implemented by the United Nations Children’s Fund – UNICEF in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo (UNSCR 1244), Montenegro, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Turkey.