NEW MEASURES are being implemented in Portugal to combat increasing violence in schools.
Attacks on teachers, student-on-student violence, damage and destruction to school premises has forced Portugal’s government to take action.
As in other European countries, staff and pupils here have suffered from acts of violence in schools, with 1,232 registered cases in the 2004/05 school year.
Although the more major acts of violence in schools are well publicised, little is known about minor, everyday violence, with official European statistics recording only apparent and not actual violence.
Insults, racism, assaults, theft and racketeering now occur, to varying degrees, across every social and geographical sector.
Nearly 5,000 young people in Portugal have admitted that they have taken dangerous objects to school for personal defence. This alarming trend has been revealed in a study carried out by Deco, the Portuguese Association for the Defence of the Consumer.
The nationwide study was carried out in 204 private and public secondary schools between February and April of this year. Of the 36,902 students questioned, 4,797 (13 per cent) confessed to taking knives, penknives, sprays or pistols onto school premises. The highest percentage of these students came from schools in Bragança, northern Portugal (20 per cent), Santarem in the Alentejo (17 per cent) and Lisbon (16 per cent).
The study also analysed acts of physical and verbal violence in schools towards students and teachers. The study concluded that one in three students had been the victim of physical or psychological violence. Of the 9,000 teachers interviewed, 18 per cent had also been subject to some form of abuse.
The most common form of abuse that students admitted to experiencing in schools was threats or verbal offence followed by physical assaults, 5.1 per cent of all violence encountered referred to sexual abuse.
However, one of the most worrying figures was that 60 per cent of students stated that they didn’t have the courage to make people aware of their situation.
The study concluded that fear, insecurity, discrimination and mockery are the main reasons why five per cent of students are regularly skipping classes.
The Ministry for Education has named 32 schools in the Lisbon and Porto areas that will merge a support service for staff and pupils into their infrastructure. The service will include measures to combat indiscipline and ensure safety within schools. The initiative aims to co-ordinate schools with social security services and health institutions to create more of a community feel in the education system.
The schools involved will be consulted regularly by the Ministry for Education and asked for feedback to make the programme as effective as possible.
Furthermore, the programme will grant money to the schools in question to hire psychologists and social workers, to offer advice to staff and pupils to deal with any situation. The psychologists and social workers will also make recommendations about what type of teachers to employ, with emphasis on recruiting people from the local community that already have prior knowledge of the school.
This government initiative aims to stamp out minor crimes that ultimately lead to more serious acts by pupils.
In addition, the SOS teacher helpline was launched on the first day of the 2006/07 school year, which aims to help victims of violence in schools and to give advice to teachers so they can resolve student conflicts effectively.