Schools in Romania are faced with a phenomenon that promotes violence among pupils
Unfortunately, schools in Romania are faced with a phenomenon that promotes violence among pupils, also known as bullying. Thousands of children are harassed, threatened and attacked in school by their own mates, because of their social status or physical appearance. Data provided by the Education Ministry show that 18,780 cases of violence among children were reported at national level in the period 2014-2015. Tens of thousands of calls were also registered by the Child’s Phone Association, from children complaining of having been assaulted in school. 54% of the children talked to nobody about that, 24% shared their pain with colleagues, and only 22% of them talked to their parents.
In 2016, the ‘Save the Children’ Romania organization launched the first national study on bullying in Romanian schools. Here is psychologist Marius Rusu: “Only 13% of the school children are aware of bullying as a phenomenon. This shows that there is very little prevention or intervention in schools in relation to that. Data have also shown that 31% of the children are rejected by their peers, 29% are threatened and denigrated at least twice a week, and 39% are actually aggressed, hurt, pushed, spit on. I believe that the real phenomenon can be seen when we talk about the children that witness this phenomenon in schools. 73% of the children say they have witnessed bullying. Also, as regards the online environment, the situation is no better. 69% of the children say that have witnessed at least one case of bullying on WhatsApp, among groups of colleagues, in the past week. So we are talking about a growing phenomenon and this is happening mainly because there are no prevention programs in schools. Also, it is an indicator that in Romanian society abuse is still very present.”
Psychologists believe that the first factor leading to this situation is the family environment, and what children see at home, at their parents. As a result of that, 6 out of 10 children grow up in the presence of physical or emotional violence. If we refer to the school environment, specialists say that parental education centers and support services for children and families are needed in each and every county, as the offices of psycho-pedagogical counseling in schools are insufficient. There is one advisor for every 800 pupils in the schools across the country, and only one advisor for every 1,200 pupils in Bucharest.
In the past years, several campaigns, programs and debates have been held, aimed at combating this phenomenon. Recently, the ‘Save the Children’ organization has launched the pilot program titled ‘Schools without Bullying’, which will be running this year, benefiting 5,000 pupils in 20 schools.
Here is Marius Rusu, psychologist with the ‘Save the Children’ organization, with details: ”We are trying to develop a pilot project in Dâmboviţa County and we are taking a different approach, by creating teams made up of a teacher, a school adviser and a pupil, in our effort to fight bullying at two levels. First of all, we pay attention to prevention, trying to develop children’s social-emotional abilities. Secondly, we want to raise public awareness over the risks of bullying, by carrying out ability development programs. We also want to draft clear procedures to manage cases of bullying and to train teachers and school advisors who will know, step by step, what to do from the very moment a case of bullying is reported. Most importantly, during this pilot project we try to get children involved in this team, to make them our partners in drafting strategies and finding solutions, in an attempt to eliminate bullying type of behaviors.”
The ‘Smart Parents Association’ carried out a bullying prevention campaign last year, jointly with Itsy Bitsy FM radio station. A first debate on containing bullying was venued by the Parliament Palace, which enjoyed the participation of over 40 representatives of the Government, Parliament, NGOs, psychologists and experts.
Nadia Tătaru, co-founder of Itsy Bitsy FM and the president of the ‘Smart Parents Association’ is the initiator of the national campaign for preventing bullying: “The round table talks we had with all stakeholders all throughout last year were also attended by some MPs. Two of them noticed how important this problem of bullying was and came up with two legislative initiatives which they tabled in Parliament in May. These legislative initiatives are aimed at introducing into the Education Law and the Labor Code the wording ‘psychological violence equals bullying’, alongside other forms of violence, particularly the physical one, that we were all well aware of. These drafts are following their natural course in parliament, the draft amending the Education law reaching the most advanced stage of them all, as it has been analyzed by all the relevant committees and will certainly be debated in a plenary session of the Chamber of Deputies this autumn, in the Senate, and we will have a new, amended, education law. Bullying will be penalized, but our aim is not to introduce penalties, but to make people aware of how dangerous psychological violence may be and to tell them they should stop doing it. To reach this goal, we should carry out prevention campaigns with a powerful message, campaigns to train teachers, to be able to identify bullying and intervene properly.”
According to the World Health Organization, Romania ranks third in a classification of 42 countries where this phenomenon has been investigated.