Schools should teach how to prevent violence against women

Children in primary and secondary schools should be taught more about human rights, discrimination, and violence against women starting next year. Education Minister Vladimír Balaš (STAN) would like to include this in the teaching of civics, for example, as part of a planned change to the framework curriculum.

“We are engaged in revising the educational programs, changing the way and content of teaching. It is necessary to ensure that people start learning about gender-based violence, discrimination, and human rights as early as primary school. Children should know where the limits are and how not to let something like this happen,” Balas said at an international conference on violence at universities held under the auspices of the Czech EU Presidency.

Inappropriate behavior at universities

He added that experts at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS) have yet to discuss what subject to include these issues in. “Whether to include them in the teaching of civic education or somewhere else,” Balas said.

The two-day international conference, which continues on Friday, focuses on preventing violence in academic settings. Students have raised several cases of inappropriate behavior this year on campuses.

For example, the management of Palacký University in Olomouc terminated a teacher’s employment at the Faculty of Arts for violating its code of ethics. He was alleged to have committed humiliation, bullying, and sexual harassment against students.

“Unfortunately, I have been watching this lately, and it is affecting me. It’s wrong that something like this is happening. Understandably, colleges are problematic because there is an unequal status among subjects, and a teacher may abuse the position. It is good to prevent this, and preventive programs are needed,” Minister Balash commented yesterday.

He added that an excellent tool to help victims could be, for example, a school psychologist, so the victim has somewhere to turn for help. He is also pleased that institutions have started to respond to such cases, for example, by establishing ombudspersons.

Victims are afraid

According to UniSAFE research on gender-based violence in universities, the findings presented at the conference, 62 percent of the 42,000 respondents from 46 European universities had experienced inappropriate behavior. These included bullying, psychological pressure, or sexual harassment.

The research also found that the disabled, the chronically ill, or respondents from a racial or sexual minority are more likely to be victims.

“It has to do with power inequality, for example, in the relationship with the teacher,” said sociologist Zuzana Andreska of the Czech Academy of Sciences, who collaborated on the research.

She added that the victims were also afraid to report the behavior so they would not have to leave the university. She said one tool to combat such cases is ongoing teacher training, which the Education Ministry should mandate.