Flagging inappropriate behaviours in Suriname’s schools

Katelin Raw - VVOB
28 May 2018
Flemish organisations VVOB and Sensoa are equipping teachers and school leaders of Suriname’s lower secondary vocational schools with pedagogical tools to respond to inappropriate sexual behaviour at school.

12+

Youth enrolled in Suriname’s lower secondary vocational (LBO) schools can be categorised as ‘vulnerable’. Coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, their risk of showcasing ‘problem behaviour’ at school is higher, which doesn’t bode well for the learning achievements of these adolescents, nor for their job perspectives later in life.

For some years now, VVOB’s chapter in Suriname has been working with CENASU, the in-service teacher training centre in the country, to equip LBO teachers with the pedagogical skills to appropriately prevent and manage students’ problem behaviour.

Seeing the age of the LBO student population – 12 years and older – it doesn’t come as a surprise that a large proportion of the showcased problem behaviour is sexual in some way or another. VVOB Suriname and CENASU have therefore upgraded their training for LBO teachers and school leaders with a new component ‘how to address inappropriate sexual behaviour at school’ with support from Sensoa, the Flemish expertise centre for sexual health.

After careful consideration of these criteria, a situation can raise a green, yellow, red or black flag. Each flag points to a different appropriate response by the teacher or school leader, always putting the learning process of the involved student(s) at the heart.

Green or red

Sensoa’s Flag System has earned its stripes as an effective pedagogical tool in the matter in Flanders, so VVOB invited trainer Karen De Wilde to Paramaribo to pick her brain on how to apply it.

Karen paints the bigger picture: “Developing means learning, and learning means making mistakes. When adolescents showcase problem behaviour, we can go into dialogue with them about any questions or needs they may have, and use that learning experience as an opportunity for them to grow.”

So what is the Flag System exactly?

LBO schools determine in their school rules when certain behaviours are inappropriate on its grounds. When a situation reaches that point, the Flag System helps teachers and school leaders react accordingly by making them aware of 6 important aspects of sexual behaviour: consent, voluntariness, equality, age or development phase, context and self-respect.

After careful consideration of these criteria, a situation can raise a green, yellow, red or black flag. Each flag points to a different appropriate response by the teacher or school leader, always putting the learning process of the involved student(s) at the heart.

Students with colored cards
© VVOV

Better understanding

“The teachers will indeed learn how to apply the Flag System to specific situations of sexual behaviour, inappropriate or otherwise”, affirms Karen. “They’ll understand better how these behaviours fit into the overall development of their adolescent students.”

“The key questions educators should ask themselves when confronted with such a sensitive question are: what does this behaviour say about the concerned student(s)? What should they learn from this incident, and how can we support them in that learning process? The answer to those questions informs the ways in which teachers can respond.”

 

Pedagogical responses

So, instead of banning all talk of sex and (in)appropriate conduct in schools, there will be a platform for open and healthy discussion. “One of the participants of my workshop, a school leader, told me at the end of the training that she would respond more pedagogically instead of repressively when confronted with a situation of sexual behaviour.”

The Flag System has proven an important part of the professional development of teachers and school leaders. Not only in their pedagogical approaches, but also in reflecting and re-examining their existing school rules, all the while being respectful of culture and school-related sensitivities.

 

VVOB

VVOB – education for development is a Flemish NGO with 35 years of experience in sustainably improving education systems worldwide. Through trajectories of capacity development, we support the initial teacher education and professional development of teachers and school leaders in nine countries (including Belgium) in early childhood, primary, general secondary, and technical and vocational education. We can count on financial support from Belgian, Flemish, European and other international financial institutions.

For more information about VVOB’s activities, visit VVOB Suriname.

 

Sensoa

Sensoa is the official implementing partner of the Flemish government on sexual health and member of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Sensoa informs the public about sexual health, promotes sexuality education, limits the impact of HIV and STDs, strengthens sexual health interventions for vulnerable migrants, and raises awareness of sexual and reproductive health and rights in international policy. Sensoa’s approach is based on the World Health Organisation’s definition of sexual health: a constructive, respectful approach towards sexuality and sexual relationships.

 

Click here for more information about Sensoa’s Flag System.

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