A project to pilot the Online Safe School Standards will be implemented in six schools of the Republic of Moldova during a year. The project is launched by the International Center “La Strada” in partnership with the Ministry of Education and Research, with financial support from the Council of Europe. Activities to train and inform teachers, parents and students how to prevent risks online and to cope with the experienced problems will be carried out in the six education institutions. In each of the six schools, an online safety coordinator will guide teachers.
In a news conference at IPN, Elena Botezatu, executive director of the Center “La Strada”, said the subject of online safety has become more topical during the pandemic. “What is an online safe school? An online safe school is an education institution in which the children have skills, abilities to identify possibly risky situations for them in the virtual environment and to react when they face such situations. Surely, for the purpose, activities with students need to be staged regular within the curricular program and within extracurricular activities. An online safe school is the school in which the parents, child carers are informed about online safety, know how to guide their children. It is a school that offers useful sources from which the parents can inform themselves, while the minimum the administration of any education institution or any teacher can do is to hold at least one meeting on online safety with parents,” explained Elena Botezatu.
According to her, an online safe school is an institution in which there are clear processes and procedures for acting when a student meets with an unpleasant situation online, both cases that happen during online classes or cases in which images of students are distributed in the public sphere. To act correctly, the teaching personnel should be prepared. A school is safe online when digital infrastructure is secured. Even if the schools provide access to the Internet, the students who access that network do not have access to content that is unsuitable for their age. This is one of the most frequently met problems.
Angela Prisăcaru, senior consultant of the General Education Division of the Ministry of Education and Research, said there are already practices that help ensure a safe online environment for children in education institutions. “These standards will respond to the vulnerabilities experienced inside the system and we hope we will manage to obtain a safe environment for children and will have informed children who are ready to cope with all the challenges online,” stated Angela Prisăcaru. The six schools in which the pilot project will be implemented were chosen according to different criteria, such as the number of students, rural/urban area etc. Later, these standards will be applied by other institutions.
Attending the conference, the Head of the Council of Europe Office in Moldova William Massolin said the number of reports of child sexual abuse increased considerably the last three years. This happens because the children do not have the skills needed to protect themselves. The consequences of an online unsafe environment are serious. In such conditions, the teachers and the school community play a decisive role in protecting the children from online sexual abuses by discussing the risks and protection measures. “The teachers should realize the risks and problems and should identify the best intervention measures. They should also familiarize themselves with the available resources and services so that the students, for their part, can count on these teachers as guides,” stated William Massolin.