Most children in Europe
get the chance to go to school every day.
It is their chance to learn, to play,
to get to know themselves and the world,
and to build their future.
are no longer likely to face cruel punishments
from teachers – almost all of the
Europe and Central Asia region now outlaws
corporal punishment in school. But violence
waits in the shadows – most often
in the form of bullying. Children who
are a little bit different – cleverer,
bigger or smaller, or with a different-coloured
skin or a different accent – can
find themselves the target of taunts and
attacks. Teachers too can become bullies
The high profile cases
– the shooting of pupils by pupils
or the suicides of children who could
take no more – are proof that violence
can have tragic consequences if it is
not tackled in time. Safe schools are
schools without violence, and schools
without violence need to be developed
and fostered by governments, teachers,
pupils, parents and the community.
An European Observatory
on Violence in Schools has been set up
to collect data. Based at the University
of Bordeaux in France, it covers Belgium,
Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and
the United Kingdom.
But facts and figures
about violence are always difficult to
find. Many children are afraid to speak
out, and the statistics can be influenced
by the questions researchers ask or the
size or nature of the group they choose.
The following examples aim to give a general
picture from different countries in the
- In 2000, a study in
Georgia on child abuse and physical violence
against children found that, of 4,382
children aged six to seven, 31.8 per cent
reported experiencing physical punishment
in schools, in 96 per cent of cases by
- A 2002 survey in Armenia
conducted by UNICEF among parents and
children aged 7-18, found that beating
and slapping are common in schools as
well as in the home.
- According to a government report of
the Russian Federation, 16 per cent of
pupils suffer physical abuse and 22 per
cent mental abuse from teachers.
- Studies by the University
of Bordeaux in France show that of 35,000
pupils questioned, 10 per cent had been
bullied. Slovenian studies report 45 per
cent of pupils being bullied. In 2004,
the United Kingdom children’s charity
ChildLine announced a 42 per cent rise
in the total number of children counselled
about bullying over their telephone helpline
– the biggest annual increase in
the charity’s 18-year history. Around
500 children call each year because they
- Girls are more often
bullied than boys. Boys carry out 85 per
cent of the attacks. There are very few
studies on girls as bullies. Eighty per
cent of violence is carried out by the
12-16 age group.
What is being done?
The UN Convention on
the Rights of the Child says children
must be provided with a safe environment
According to a table
compiled by the campaign group Global
Initiative, corporal punishment is in
principle banned throughout the Europe
and Central Asian Region apart from the
British Channel Island of Jersey, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, although
there is no knowledge about whether practice
is in line with the law.
Campaigns against bullying have been launched
in many of the region’s countries.
Stars, such as David Beckham and Crown
Princess Victoria of Sweden, have given
their support to bullied children.
The Council of Europe
launched a Charter for Democratic Schools
without Violence in 2004. It was put together
by children from 40 schools in 19 European
countries and adopted by more than 17,000
pupils Europe-wide. It sets out ways in
which schools can react to violence and
bullying in a positive way that involves
teachers, pupils, auxiliary staff and
the local community.
Programmes that involve
the whole community and favour openness
in the school environment are proving
successful – especially when they
are introduced before the climate of violence
becomes too entrenched. Some countries
– such as Sweden – are looking
at new laws which put a legal obligation
on school authorities to stop bullying
and violence, and make it easier for students
to lodge complaints.
How do we go forward?
- States should take
effective measures to create healthy and
- Early warning systems
should be set up to spot difficulties
before they erupt into real violence.
Prevention is the key to building schools
- Schools need to develop
a strategy against violence which involves
teachers, pupils, governors, and the local
community. Children need to be involved
at every step.
- Teachers – and
pupils – need to follow anti-violence
training and violence prevention classes
should be included in the school timetable.
- New, less intrusive
ways of resolving conflict need to be
prompted – such as mediation where
solutions are found to problems by bringing
people together to make joint decisions.
- Schools need to be
built along democratic lines – with
openness between pupils and teachers being
the rule not the exception.
Chinkov, V., “Violence
among children and young people in the
Russian Federation” in Violence
in schools. A challenge for the local
community, Conference 2-4 December 2002,
Council of Europe, Strasbourg, in Integrated
project “Responses to violence in
everyday life in a democratic society”,
Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg,
2003, pp. 65-70.
Mikus Kos, A., “Peer
violence and bullying in south-east Europe”,
in Violence in schools. A challenge for
the local community, Conference 2-4 December
2002, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, in
Integrated project “Responses to
violence in everyday life in a democratic
society”, Council of Europe Publishing,
Strasbourg, 2003, pp. 71-77.
Debarbieux, E., Studies
on the violence in the school environment,
1996, 1999, 2001.
Research carried out
for the project “Responses to violence
in everyday life in a democratic society”,
Council of Europe.
Annual statistics from
Childline, the UK telephone helpline for
children and young people,
Survey on Violence Against
Children in Armenia, UNICEF, 2003.