BEIRUT: Education Minister Marwan Hamadeh Friday launched a new initiative that aims to create a violence-free “student-friendly school environment.”
The policy would “tend to students’ mental, cognitive, emotional and social needs,” Hamadeh said at a launch event held at the ministry.
The event, held in cooperation with UNICEF, also announced the launch of a new “listening room” on the second floor of the Education Ministry, which would receive student complaints regarding violence, mistreatment and bullying incidents. The ministry will not share the information received with third parties, respecting the privacy of students and their families.
The project is being implemented in over 20 schools and includes both Lebanese and non-Lebanese students, general director of education at the ministry, Fady Yarak, said, noting that the feedback from the “experiments” in these schools would help amend the policy for its final version.
UNICEF Lebanon Representative, Tanya Chapuisat, said the initiative was a “major step forward,” that not only works to ensure children’s rights to education, but also eliminates factors that could lead to school dropouts.
As part of its implementation mechanism, the policy includes training sessions offered to staff and educators, to help them to spot early signs of violent outbreaks in a school environment.
A 39-page booklet outlining the policy’s main objectives and its application mechanisms was released alongside the announcement and the ministry’s lists of “signs” of “those potentially posing risks,” which include previous experiences of war and conflict.
Those who “live with non-biological parents [like the partner of their mother]” are also listed as “students with situations of concern.”
Speaking at the launch event, Hamadeh said the importance of the initiative, known officially as the Policy for the Protection of Students in the School Environment, lies in its implementation mechanism, which is integrated with the policy itself.
He said that while there was no lack of legislation and law regarding violence at educational institutions, they often lacked the means to ensure a healthy learning environment.
A strategic plan within the policy aims to raise awareness and prevent “violence” defined as both “intentional and unintentional harm.” Examples include electronic bullying, blackmail, rape and sexual assault.
As measures of violence prevention, the policy suggests increased monitoring at all schools, including bathrooms, as well as installing CCTV in places “that can’t be constantly monitored.”
According to the booklet, students – including minors over the age of 7 – can be penalized for crimes according to Lebanese law, if the incidents occur within schools or around them, or are witnessed by school staff.
The policy to protect students was developed in accordance with the national strategy to prevent violence against children, passed by Cabinet in 2012. According to Yarak, the ministry already began its “mission” to protect children in schools in 2016.