The KiVa Program has now been in use at the Liberty School, Paraguay, for over four years. It was not straightforward to manage to become a KiVa School – but Liberty is now a proud, satisfied and active member of the global “KiVa Schools Community”.
The Liberty School is a school in San Lorenzo, on the outskirts of the capital city Asuncion. It is a bilingual school with teaching both in Spanish and English and with classes from pre-elementary school to high school.
– Our school was one of the first ones in Paraguay to recognise bullying in the 1990’s. At first, we implemented a campaign that was in use in the United States and based on it, we created our own guidelines against bullying, tells Olivia Pettengill, Board Member at the Liberty School.
– When Finland was receiving worldwide publicity and attention for its outstanding educational system, we heard about the KiVa Antibullying Program for the first time. We got very interested and eager to learn more about this programme, tells Pettengill.
Pettengill and her colleagues were so convinced that the KiVa Program would be an answer to their challenges with bullying that they eventually directly contacted the International Project Manager of the KiVa Program Johanna Alanen in Finland.
– Eventually, Johanna and her team came over to visit us and our school. It was such a pleasure to finally receive all the answers to our questions, and we completely fell in love with KiVa, tells Pettengill.
“We travelled all the way to Finland to be able to introduce and implement this unique program to our school."
Pettengill and her colleagues’ next step was a visit to Finland to learn more and see the KiVa Program implemented in Finnish schools. After the visit, the Liberty School received a KiVa license from a licensed partner of the KiVa Program, Instituto Escalae operating in Argentina. Their KiVa team was established, and KiVa training could begin.
– It has been a pleasure to meet and work together with the Liberty School and its devoted KiVa team! I have never experienced such determination and passion to implement our Program, says Alanen.
– Normally, our local partners offer the Program to the schools in that particular country. However, in Paraguay, we did not have such a partner and thus, could not offer the program to Liberty School at first. Finally, we found a solution with the help of our partner Insituto Escalae in Argentina, and the Liberty School could finally start to operate with the Program they so much wanted to have, continues Alanen.
Bullying will not disappear, but attitudes towards it can be changed
Now, four years after the Liberty School joined the KiVa Program, the school has its own experienced and active KiVa Team: Curriculum Coordinator Carolina Torreani as KiVa Team Coordinator and Middle School Teacher Angela Aguayo and Fourth Grade Teacher Irma Castelli as team members.
– Bullying is a genuine problem at our school and in Paraguay in general. And in addition to traditional face-to-face bullying, nowadays there is a lot of cyber bullying in social media channels and groups. We have found KiVa as a very effective and systematic way to fight against it. We really like the step-by-step approach of the Program, says Torreani.
– We have managed to implement the Program among our teachers and staff, but we work constantly to improve our processes and to engage all teachers and also families in the Program, tells Castelli.
– Our primary challenge is definitely parents. They are very involved in their children’s education here in Paraguay. We need to make them understand the philosophy of the KiVa Program, Castelli continues.
KiVa Program information session for parents at the Liberty School
– KiVa is very different from other solutions against bullying. It is not just the bully and the harassed student who are involved – the whole class or group will be engaged to make sure that bullying is recognised and not tolerated. In the KiVa Program, the focus is on the entire school community, and it engages the whole group to recognise and discuss bullying and to fight against it together, Torreani explains.
– Parents are often impatient: they find it difficult to understand that the KiVa Program does not make bullying disappear but makes it visible and provides tools and methods to prevent it, adds Pettengill.
The KiVa Team at the Liberty School is very satisfied with the KiVa training and also with the KiVa lessons for schools.
– There are a lot of resources, materials, videos, and games to be used at school and in the KiVa lessons. And we always get assistance in using them or in any other issue or questions that we might have with the Program, tells Torreani.
As a development initiative for the KiVa Program, she suggests even more global cooperation, benchmarking, and communication.
– We would like to have more contact with the KiVa schools in different countries. It would be awesome to have exchange programmes for teachers or maybe students also! Torreani says – and her teammates Aguayo and Castelli agree.
KiVa is an innovative, award-winning, evidence-based anti-bullying program which has been developed at the University of Turku using cutting-edge research on bullying and its mechanisms. KiVa is implemented world-wide from Finland to New Zealand, from Chile to the UK. At the moment, KiVa schools exist in 21 countries.
Text: Kati Kaarlehto
Photos: Liberty School