During the current school year, the unique standards of protection of all children from the risks of abuse in the online environment will be piloted in 6 schools from our country. This is the result of several researches, tests and adjustments of good practices undertaken by the International Center La Strada over the last 4 years in the field of online safety education.
A study on online child safety, conducted by the International Center La Strada at the beginning of this year, shows that the subject is addressed sporadically in the educational process, the level of teacher education in this field is insufficient and that there is no appropriate institutional framework to effectively implement online child protection initiatives.
In order to meet these challenges, in the context of online learning process and taking into account international best practices, the Ministry of Education and Research has developed and advanced unique standards for online school safety for piloting.
Angela PRISACARU, Senior Consultant, General Education Directorate, Ministry of Education and Research of the Republic of Moldova: Standards for the protection and safety of students online come to solve a major problem affecting the psycho-emotional well-being of students online - lack of a consolidated framework at the level of educational institutions. We hope that these Standards will meet the needs of the school community, providing clarity in the actions that must be taken by each educational actor, for the safety of children on the Internet. In the long run, after piloting the standards, they will become mandatory for all educational institutions in the country.
At the national level, we find an insufficient level of information and awareness of the risks to which children are exposed in the online environment, said Elena BOTEZATU, Executive Director of the International Center La Strada. Therefore, the Safer Internet School Model, which we are launching today, is the commitment of educational actors to protect the child from all forms of online violence and to take the necessary actions to develop their resilience to abuse in the online environment. With small but safe steps, supported by our partners, the school will learn to prevent and intervene correctly, with great care, but promptly, when it reports a situation of abuse committed in relation to children on the Internet.
In other words, the new standards are aimed at integrating school policies, practices and procedures so that online safety becomes a cross-cutting element of the education system, in line with the provisions of international child protection policies adopted by the schools in European countries. According to Elena BOTEZATU, the implementation of these standards implies a change in awareness, attitudes and approaches in the activities with students about online safety, but also in the perceptions of the community about what it means, in fact, the legal responsibility of educational institutions to protect children from any form of violence and how we relate this obligation to everything that happens online.
Simultaneously with the pilot activities that will test the model of Safer Internet School, in the next few weeks a campaign will be implemented to raise awareness of the school community regarding the risks to which children are exposed online. William MASSOLIN, Head of the Council of Europe Office in Chisinau, said that the mission of this campaign is to inform teachers, the school community and parents about the risks that children face online and, in particular, how adults should prevent child sexual abuse in the virtual environment. These activities are needed especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic, when the number of reports of online sexual abuse has increased alarmingly in both EU countries and the Republic of Moldova, said William MASSOLIN: In this regard, one of the key objectives of the Council of Europe is to raise awareness of child sexual abuse, including online abuse, as set out in the Council of Europe's Strategy on the Rights of the Child.
Today's event is organized by the International Center La Strada in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Research within the project Combating violence against children in the Republic of Moldova, implemented with the financial support of the Council of Europe.