Growing violence among schoolchildren


Today is the last day of the school year in the Czech Republic-a day awaited by many youngsters with a mixture of anticipation and dread. The summer holidays loom ahead but before that they have to face their parents with this term's report card. Daniela Lazarova has the story.

Report cards, short tempers, punishments and rewards. For a brief time, the end of the school year affects the lives of most people in this country. And each year parents and children get plenty of advice on how to deal with bad grades, how to improve communication and where to get professional advice. In many ways this end of term is no different , but an ugly incident in which two school boys beat up their classmate so badly that he ended up in hospital has served to highlight the problem of growing violence among schoolchildren.

The incident is not all that unusual. Bullying is rife at many Czech schools, and although the problem is now out in the open, teachers admit that they have trouble dealing with it. I spoke earlier to dr. Zora Duskova - a psychologist at the Child Help Centre.

" If we look at the development of our society in general we can see a similar trend of growing violence. Children are only repeating that pattern. Plenty of factors contribute to this: a change in lifestyle, a change in values. There is a go-getting atmosphere in Czech society at present, a feeling that the end justifies the means. The action films that children watch on television and the computer games they play all contain a vast amount of violence and aggression and many children copy what they see - intentionally or subconsciously. We are actually feeding them this stuff -so it shouldn't come as a surprise to us that they act as they do."

Reports of attacks against schoolchildren by their own classmates have fuelled a public debate about whether the age of criminal responsibility should be lowered. Dr. Duskova again :

"I think we should hold parents responsible for any crimes that their underage children commit. This should lead them to be better parents -to educate the child in ethics, to instill in them certain accepted norms of civilized behavior , to communicate with them, know what they are involved in, how they spend their time, what they do all day. You'd be amazed how many parents fail to do this. And then, when their child gets into trouble, they want to believe that it is the teacher's fault, or the school's fault or anyone else's fault but their own. Certainly a teachers influence can be considerable, but if the groundwork is not set at home - or if the child is given a bad example at home - then the school has only limited means of action. "