Projects worldwide

Promoting Safe schools

In autumn we started a new project in North Macedonia. Together with our partner organisation "Coalition of youth organisations SEGA", we are working to prevent violence in primary and secondary schools.

Insults, bullying, cyber-bullying, physical or emotional violence - as in many countries, violence against children is not uncommon in North Macedonia. Experiences of violence in childhood affect education, health and well-being. Pupils who are victims of violence are more likely to drop out of school, perform worse and have a higher risk of abusing drugs. For these reasons, the Pestalozzi Children's Foundation, together with its partner organisation "Coalition of youth organizations SEGA" and other partners, wants to prevent violence in schools in North Macedonia. The project "Promoting Safe Schools" started in September 2023.

We talked about the new project with our colleagues on site.

Why does the new project in North Macedonia revolve around violence prevention?

Azbija Memedova, Country Manager North Macedonia: Our team started a needs assessment of the child rights situation in the country at the end of 2021. We met with key stakeholders and visited a variety of schools. We found that violence in schools is a serious problem. The issue is talked about openly and violence prevention is a big challenge. Since the beginning of 2023, there have been several incidents of violence in the region, including one in Serbia where a 13-year-old boy killed his classmates. These events further highlighted the need to address this issue. Our needs assessment showed an urgent need for action. Students' knowledge about the different forms of violence and the reporting process must be improved. With regards to school staff and management, it became clear how important it is to involve them in capacity building. This way, they can improve their skills and mechanisms to protect against violence in schools.

How and on which criteria did you choose the partner organisation?

Dragana Urumovska, Education Officer North Macedonia: SEGA is a well-known and established organisation that has worked with us before. Together with them, we have tested a model for the participation of students in violence prevention. The positive results of this were included in the recent law on primary education and are mandatory for all primary schools in the country. This time, the project is being implemented in a consortium of SEGA and three other non-governmental organisations: Macedonian Center for Civic Education, First Children's Embassy MEGASHI and SmartUp LAB. In selecting all the organisations, we took into account their long experience in implementing projects on children's rights, education policy, prevention and protection from violence. Furthermore, they all have an established position and close cooperation with relevant stakeholders and bring innovative approaches as well as the necessary resources.

Am Kickoff-Meeting zum Projekt nahmen Vertreter*innen aller beteiligten Organisationen teil.

What measures are planned to make schools safer and prevent violence between students?

Dragana Urumovska: Our project includes the "Whole School Approach". This means that we address the issue of violence on multiple levels and with several stakeholders. The focus is on building the capacity of students, teachers, support staff, school management, parents and municipal representatives to recognise and address different forms of violence. In addition, the project supports the schools in developing measures to protect children and in setting up a reporting system. The students' bodies, the parliament and the ombudsman develop and initiate actions at school level to ensure protection against violence. This is a developmental project in which the approach and measures can be modified during the project to meet the needs of all parties involved.

What impact do you think the project will have?

Azbija Memedova: We hope that the "Whole School Approach" will create a model of protection that is tailored to the needs of all stakeholders. We envision safe schools in which all children, with the support of their peers, teachers and parents, can recognise, prevent and address violence.

The programme is supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA.