I have a niece. She is 6 years old and attending preschool program that is obligatory for all kids, to be able to enroll elementary school next year. Her parents don’t have money to leave her there all day so she stays 4h since it is the only available option for the parents without money provided by the State. It is done in one nearby elementary school. There are over 20 kids in her class and one teacher.
Her teacher is older, tall, fake blonde, with tight jeans. My opinion, might be biased, looks and behaves neurotic and I would say doesn’t understand what is exactly her role as an adult, a teacher, and to me it seams she doesn’t really know much about pedagogy despite, as I understood, long period of working with kids. She is overworked and overstressed I suppose. Rumor is she transferred from other preschool institution since she had some problems there. I dont know if this is true, might not be important, but since this is a small settlement next to the Belgrade i reckon this, if it would be true, would be relevant to realize politic regarding this program and in general policy to move teachers who show to be inadequate to another, smaller and poorer place, rather then to take any other measure. There are criteria for selecting teachers. There is a law about preschool education. By this law it is ok to have more than 20 six-year-old and teachers who do not really know how to deal with violence.
Few days ago my niece came from this institution and sad she was hit by one kid. She complained to the teacher, this teacher asked tree times the boy why he hit her and after his silence she told him to kiss my niece, hug her and say “I am sorry”. What he did reluctantly, i would say, judging by vivid explanation my niece provided by twisting her face trying to depict how he did what was demanded. Other kids are also hit by this boy. One kid ended up with black eye after his hit.
On complain from my sister that her kid, my niece, is not safe in this institution and that it is obvious that boy has a problem this teacher sad kids are kids, they are unpredictable. What my niece could hear from this teacher is that this boy is very nice boy basically, that it was just an accident, and anyway he is energetic, and this is the way he expresses his affection and love. Also, that they have just two more months to finish the program so let’s not make it a big deal. To stress that my niece was listening to all of this.
My sister spoke with other parents and asked them what do they think. Well, basically they said the same. Kids will be kids, let’s not overreact.
LITTLE GIRL-BIG GIRL
Now, I cannot help noticing similarities between this and experience of women who suffered and are suffering because of the violence of their boyfriends, husband and other mail figures in their family for example.
First society is reluctant to recognize this as violence at all. When we establish something is happening then “its just a game” like in this case – it is just partners arguing, part of ordinary family life, it is not violence. We should not even bother to think about it and give it some relevance.
If we pass this stage, for example when she ends up with bruises, then women will hear something like: are you sure it was violence? How did it exactly happen? People and institutions would try to investigate can we really say that it was violence-action taken by the man with intention to hurt her. Was there an act? Was it intentional? Did it really hurt you? How much?
Even when she has bruises, they would ask if she got it in some other way, or even inflicted it to herself. Might be she wanted just to ruin this nice man’s life for no good reason, who knows.
Then if it is established act really did happen, then it must have been some kind of accident, how would he be able to do that? Come on, he is such a nice person. Nice in this context doesn’t have to be in some strict form. Man can qualify as nice if he is living in the same street, or if he says hello while passing by, takes his child to school, or helps with the door, or compliments. That is quite enough to say that they wouldn’t expect this kind of behavior and it is not really in line with his personality. So, somehow it is easy to qualify as a nice fellow who would never on purpose hurt anyone, especially not his wife, since he is “such a nice boy”.
I LOVE YOU
Now, if he did hurt her, then we have to try further to understand that this is his way of saying “I love you”. He just doesn’t know to say it in ordinary way. So, caring and love for someone can be expressed in many ways. Here is the one you might not want to wish to experience: to be hit by people who claim they love you.
We can extend now this notion of love to killing by this stand. When he killed her he did that because he loved her. It’s not unorthodox to hear this. In many cases not that he limited her rights, took her dignity and self-respect by many ways of disrespecting, verbal, emotional, sexual and economic violence like cursing, yelling, spitting, threatening, controlling when she is going out, where is she going, is she working, whom she is seeing, how much money she has, when and with whom is she having sex with and is she getting pregnant etc., but he took her basic right she has as a human, her right to live also.
This is what little girls learn very early. It can be love if someone is inflicting you pain and hurting you on purpose, and you have to understand and accept this as an act of love. By World Health Organization one of three women in this world will suffer this kind of “love”(1) . Roma women,being discriminated all around, being among the poorest and the most uneducated, without prospects for decent jobs and living, are especially subjected to this kind of “loving”.
Next thing that women has to understand that even if what she said he did is confirmed as true, society cannot deal with it now, it’s not convenient for people. Because there are just 2 more months to the end of the year, 2 more weeks for police officer to go to vacation, 2 more days for social service officer to be transferred, 2 hours for the judge to go to his coffee break or whatever.
Also, society in the name of justice has to measure things and assign proper punishment if any. Now we have to think about repercussions for this man, would it ruin his career? Would it ruin his renome? Would this little boy be unable to enroll elementary school with this record? Would that be a problem for his parents?
Now, it is not that this little boy is an adult who can be seen as responsible in that same sense. But it is relevant that there is no educational influence that reflects this kind of peer violence in educational institutions. Reaction is actually supporting this kind of behavior and educating kids wrongly.Teacher doesn’t seem to recognize violence, she reinterprets it, justifies it, sending wrong message to the boy and a girl and doesn’t really properly address this issue.
I would say probably this little boy is also a victim of violence in his family, that he has learned violence is legitimate way to communicate I suppose. This is something that institutions should also address. And in the law (2) there are ideas how to deal with these problems. But, the whole idea of preventing and reducing violence in educational institutions and all the laws made are not from any help here it seams. Now I believe these laws are made by small groups of people, some experts or something, educated and with some ideas about democratization, but, I suppose, when you have nonfunctional, deeply corrupted institutions, uneducated and unaware parents and uneducated and unaware street level bureaucrats from teachers to judges regarding sexism, gender based violence, violence against women, and not just that, but when some proper understanding of many issues relevant for democratization is missing, in society with long-lasting overgrowth of the culture of violence and rising poverty, these documents seem so far away, and ideas presented in them are really, really far away from everyday life.
After this event my sister talked to this teacher and kid’s father again. She said to me after that she had strange feeling of emptiness. His father just sat there and didn’t say anything, while this teacher again mumbled about kids being kids, and her not physically being able to watch out in every moment every kid. She said it was as if she spoke to herself about the issue of violence in education and responsibility of the state preschool institution to deal with it and that nobody really understood what she is saying and nobody really listened.
Strange feeling of futile call for confrontation with reality and demand for their rights and help, I suppose, that many women, who decide to address the issue of violence, face after many meetings, hearings, going from door to door, endlessly repeating their stories.
The strange feeling I had while listening yesterday the debate: ”Serbia after elections” (3)while people repeated how bad situation is in general and calling for some actions, while others who listened were somehow looking very tired, as if they already know all these things, but that it is too much, that nobody really believes things can and will get better, but still they repeat some recipes from literature on democratization and economic development.Emptiness.
I don’t see solution for this horrible, sad society in which we live. I just wanted to hug my niece and try to explain to her what I think about all this. To try to offer some kind of explanation of this very wrongly set up society and give her some idea what the violence is, that it is wrong, and that there is at least an idea about some just society in which adults protect kids and each other from violence, and that there is a better way to deal with it then to say somebody who hit her to kiss and hug her now.
I just hoped in her little mind she could understand this. But I am going away now, leaving her here, worried about things that will happen to her in future. Also, I stayed wondering if there is anyone who could talk with that little boy since educational institution is not going to take care of his needs for sure. I cannot imagine feeling of pain and loneliness six-year-old kid can have in a family that wasn’t able to provide him better model of care and “love” then what he have learned. I wonder, if he ends up as heterosexual, would he be the one of these boys who kill their girlfriend by their bare hands smashing their bones “from love”, like Darijan Music (4)for example. I just really hope my niece and other little girls wouldn’t learn this lesson of obedience to that kind of “love” to well, and that she wouldn’t be that girl who ends up dead. And if she stays alive and she manages to avoid statistics, being one of three girls suffering from some form of violence by man, i was thinking how that for sure will not be thanks to Serbian schooling system.