Domestic violence in Cyprus, but also abroad, seems to be on the rise, with incidents witnessed by teachers and reported to the Office of the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child raising concerns. The problem, although it occurs mainly in Secondary Education, is spreading more and more in Primary Education, according to what teachers report on politis.com.cy. Despo Michailidou Livaniou, Commissioner for Child Protection, points out the need for coordination of the actions of the competent services, since otherwise any interventions remain fragmented and, in one way or another, doomed to failure.
Testimonials and reports
Teachers, who wished to remain anonymous, spoke to politis.com.cy and gave their own testimonies regarding how they themselves experience the problem of bullying in schools. As they say, this takes various forms, from verbal violence to the social exclusion of the victim. The perpetrator may also infringe on the victim's personal belongings. One of the examples they cited is a student finding his notebooks and books torn after returning to class after the break.
Bullying can also be practiced online, now. An example concerns children who have created their own group on “Viber”, leaving out another child, whom they are bullying.
In more extreme cases, physical violence is also observed. As an example, we were told the case of a child who, due to his highly developed body type, for his age, put up with younger children on his own, using physical violence.
The Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child points out that the State's reaction to the creation of tools and infrastructure for assistance to both victims and perpetrators has been delayed.
Threat with a knife
A particularly serious incident, which was reported to the office of the Commissioner for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, concerns the case of a student who threatened his classmate, even projecting a knife, at the school. Also, in the context of meetings held with the Chief of Police and the Ministry of Justice, reports of incidents of violence were made, even in the Primary School. Behaviors are also observed which can potentially lead to more serious incidents.
Finally, Ms. Michailidou referred to the incident, which, more than a year ago, caused a sensation in the Cypriot society and concerned the attack of private high school students against a student in another private school, on the occasion of a video game in which all three were playing . This case, he said, had been investigated and recommendations had been made, both for the handling of the victim of the attack and for the perpetrators themselves.
Responsibilities to parents
Teachers point out that a large part of the responsibility falls on the parents, as the children reproduce the behaviors of their role models. For example, a parent who often succeeds against immigrants, creates a child who expresses aggression against children with an immigrant biography, another parent who curses and / or uses violence against his fellow human beings, is the best example for his child, who will behave in a similar way to his classmates, even to his teachers. Teacher stated on our website that he has seen the above cycle of violence repeated, either through his professional capacity, or as a parent himself.
Delay in reaction
Despo Michailidou Livaniou, speaking to politis.com.cy, noticed that there are delays in the way the State reacts. We must, he said, look at the issue of having a school psychologist in every school unit, which is not the case at the moment, despite the repeated position of her office. It is especially important to be a specific person in each school, in order to develop a relationship of trust with the students.
In addition, it is necessary to set up a complaints system, anonymously or anonymously, so that the student-victim of bullying has easy access to report incidents. This will help children who are victims of bullying and / or violent behavior, who find it difficult to express themselves because of their fear of the perpetrator.
Another recommendation of the Commissioner's office is the establishment of a single file, through which the competent Services can easily access a child's file. That is, the file can be examined by the Social Welfare Services, by the Mental Health Services, by the Police and by the Commissioner herself. In this way, Ms. Michailidou pointed out, if it is judged that there is a need for any action, to activate immediately the Service which will concern the respective incident.
Absence of structures
Another problem that needs to be solved, according to the Commissioner, is the lack of structures, suitable for children under the age of fourteen, who are criminally irresponsible, but at the same time are victims of incidents of domestic – and not only – violence or bullying. These are children who need to be treated differently in order to determine, on a case-by-case basis, where their aggression comes from. Ms. Michailidou characterized all the above as complex and very deep issues and need serious study and discussion on how to resolve them.