It is commonplace that problems exist in schools in many countries around the world. These include fights between students, misunderstandings between students and teachers, and other issues. Therefore, in many developed countries, such as the United States, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey, and Georgia “Friends of School Children” programs exist in schools. While the name of the service may differ by country, the goals and objectives are almost the same everywhere.
This initiative has proven to be beneficial, and it primarily helps to solve problems with discipline. The program also creates a positive atmosphere in schools for students and teachers. For these reasons, the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan decided to introduce this system in Azerbaijan.
The project has been in existence since the beginning of last year, and the results of the “Məktəblinin dostu” project are evident – the situation in the schools where the project has been piloted has become much calmer.
The pilot project “Məktəblinin dostu,” implemented at the initiative of the Ministry of Education of Azerbaijan and the ASAN Service (the state agency for rendering services to citizens and social innovations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan), is implemented in accordance with the “State Strategy for the Development of Education” in the Republic of Azerbaijan.
The project was launched in 30 schools in Baku, and 112 Friends of School Children participate in it. Three psychologists and six coordinators serve in the project. The main goal of the project is to ensure complete safety in schools, and to establish closer contacts between schoolchildren, teachers and parents.
According to project coordinator Rustam Agayev, to achieve its goal, the Friends of School Children employees received trainings organized by the Ministry of Education, the Ministry for Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Health. The program’s employees are trained in how to behave in emergency situations, use personal protective equipment, provide first aid before the arrival of specialists and much more. Refresher courses will be offered regularly.
During their daily work, “Məktəblinin dostu” monitor security issues on school grounds, and try to protect students from bad habits such as smoking. Together with teachers, they hold informational and educational activities on different topics, and engage in personal conversations with students. Thanks to the vigilance of the Friends of Schoolchildren Program it was possible to stop the entrance of unauthorized persons into the school territory. In one of the schools there was even a case when an outsider wanted to “steal” a student, but the employees of “Məktəblinin dostu” appealed to the school’s management, which informed the law enforcement agencies about the incident. As such, it was possible to prevent a tragedy from happening. It was also possible to stop the extortion of money from students by strangers near several of the pilot schools involved in the project. After receiving complaints from students, “Friends of School Children” staff, together with the school authorities, appealed to the police. An investigation was conducted, and the extortionists were detained.
Another example from the project includes the following: smoke began to appear in a classroom at one of the schools. Fortunately, classes were not in session at that time. Project staff noticed the smoke, took timely measures to extinguish it, and called the relevant authorities. These are just a few of the examples of how the project staff have helped students avoid different dangerous situations.
Parents also began to trust the employees of the pilot project. To date, there are several examples of when one of the decisive factors in choosing a school for their children was the presence of the Friends of School Children in this school. This may serve as one of the best examples of the success of the program. To date, directors and parents of 10 additional schools have appealed to the project leadership to implement the program in their schools. Many parents, together with their children, have actively participate in the events initiated by “Məktəblinin dostu”.
Within the framework of the project, a number of contests, competitions, tournaments, flash mobs, and activities to enhance the patriotic spirit were organized. This not only helps to spend time in a beneficial way, but also allows teachers to identify talented children and help in terms of choosing future professions. Program psychologists conduct seminars in schools on career guidance and career planning. Through an active Facebook page, those interested can find out about all the “Məktəblinin dostu” projects and events.
“One of the main outstanding features of our project is that we have managed to bring together all 30 schools in which we are already present. Children, teachers and parents from these schools often meet during Friends of School Children activities, and are in continuous contact with each other. The project “Məktəblinin dostu” can be thought of as a triangular relationship, which strengthens the ties of the school, students and teachers. Through the project staff, parents learn about what their children are engaging in at school, and how their relationships with classmates are developing,” noted the project manager.
“We are planning for continued education and training for our colleagues, which is the main feature of our work. In order to widen the options available for school children during their summer holidays, we plan to organize various cognitive seminars, intellectual competitions, developmental games, and interesting films within the school grounds. All this will be offered to children for free,” noted Ageyev.