Inclusive work of teaching and administrative staff with students, whether they are LGBTIQ or not, is an important prerequisite for affirming the rights and improving the position of LGBTIQ people in Montenegro, and one of the tasks of the education system is to contribute to establishing values and environments that will support the LGBTIQ community in Montenegro, as concluded at today’s training for teaching and administrative staff of high schools on the prevention of violence against LGBTIQ people organized by the Center for Civic Education (CCE) within the project “LGBTIQ – each one is a letter!”, with financial support from the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights.
In the introduction, Željka Ćetković, coordinator of the Active Citizenship programme in the CCE, presented the findings of the research on the representation of LGBTIQ issues in 13 subjects and 24 accompanying textbooks for high schools, which were assessed by the CCE team. Ćetković stated that most of the content about LGBTIQ people and the rights of this group were within the subject Healthy Lifestyles. „However, it should be highlighted that this is an elective subject in the first and second grade of high school, which limits its impact on improving views towards LGBTIQ people. Through this subject are covered gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender roles, sexual norms versus discrimination due to non-adaption to sexual norms, but students are also led to think about this topic”, she explained. Ćetković added that certain contents about LGBTIQ exist in subjects and textbooks for Psychology, Individual in a group, as well as Montenegrin-Serbian, Bosnian, Croatian language and literature, but that there is still a lot of space for development. Also, Ćetković assessed that there was a large number of subjects in which this issue could have been mentioned, but it was avoided.
Milena Račeta, psychologist, within the session “Inclusive work with LGBTIQ students and providing adequate pedagogical and psychological support to LGBTIQ students” emphasized the need for people to respect, understand and accept, which also happens to be the basis for equality of LGBTIQ people. She explained the risk factors for the development of internalizing and externalizing psychological difficulties, but also the support factors. “Understanding is the key for professionals in the system to provide strong support to students. Misunderstanding and subtle justification, unresponsiveness to violence, rejection and exclusion in adolescents causes fears, inner suffering, psychological difficulties… Therefore, it is important that the school provides the right working conditions for employees and an atmosphere of trust so that children know on which door to knock and have the opportunity to have a confidential conversation”, she said. Račeta pointed out the challenge of the adolescence period, as well as the influences of the social climate and environment on the image that an individual builds about himself, which makes it difficult for every person with a minority identity to grow up successfully and healthily. “Danger to mental health is not a homosexual, bisexual, transgender identity, or a different sexual orientation or an atypical gender identity. The danger to mental health is stigmatization, discrimination and violence, and it is up to us whether this will happen in our environment, whether it will represent a risk or not “, concluded Račeta.
During the third session “Teaching students about LGBTIQ occurrences and the importance of accepting LGBTIQ people as equals“, Jelena Čolaković, Director of the Direct programme assistance at the NGO Juventas, pointed out the importance of training teachers, administrative staff in psychological and pedagogical services, as well as in prevention programmes for students to raise awareness of peer violence, including homo/bi/transphobic violence, changing climate in classrooms by encouraging acceptance of diversity, tolerance, nonviolence, respect and awareness of the human rights of LGBTIQ people. “Today, when we witness violence in schools amongst young people, it is especially important to work on the protection and support of those who are vulnerable. Professional services and teaching staff must take care of victims of violence and be engaged in the development of strategies for intervention in cases of violence or abuse of LGBTIQ students,” she assessed. “A special aspect of support is achieving cooperation with non-governmental organizations, which employees in schools can always refer to cooperate. Working together and combining the expertise of schools and civil society organizations has proven to be a win-win combination,” she said.
Prof. Dr. Biljana MASLOVARIĆ, Executive Director of the Pedagogical Centre of Montenegro, talked about the importance of learning at all levels to better understand democracy based on principles of equality, respect and diversity. “Through education, differences should be accepted, which is the message of the European youth campaign against racism and intolerance – “All different – All equal.” The “equality in diversity” is also taught in school. By communicating with each other, young people develop interpersonal relationships, the power to listen and respect others, to respect themselves, as well as a sense of freedom and personal responsibility within the community. Self-control, control and personal responsibility of the individual are the basis of democratic relations“, stressed Maslovarić. She explained that education for democracy is a time-consuming process, which should start from the earliest age, and which means providing opportunities for choices, proposals, discussions that ensures the adoption of values with arguments. “The experience of democracy within the school must include knowledge about democracy, goals, tasks and problems of students and the school as a whole to achieve the curriculum, as well as creating conditions for discussions that allow each individual to experience participation and appreciation so that students learn about values and acquire knowledge of self-management, their achievement and the importance of their decision-making responsibility for others. Learning about democracy is of better quality if the educational work is organized in a modern manner and where everyone participates and acts in synergy – students, teachers and parents“, concluded Maslovarić.
The training gathered 21 professors and representatives of the administrative staff of high schools in Montenegro. The training aims to strengthen the capacity of the educational and administrative staff of high schools for inclusive work and support for LGBTIQ students, strengthening the capacity of teaching staff to teach students about LGBTIQ occurrence and the importance of accepting LGBTIQ people as equal members of society.
Maja Marinović, Programme associate