LTV broadcast investigates violence in Latvian kindergartens

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Latvian Television's investigative broadcast "Aizliegtais paņēmiens" explored attitude towards children at Latvian kindergartens. Episode aired November 2 showed the results of a four-month long investigation at one establishment.

Throughout the investigative process, a Latvian Television journalist took the position of a teacher's aide and worked at Rīga kindergarten no. 36 for four months. This assistant job has low pay and requirements: almost anyone can get it.

Over the four months, the journalist documented how children are treated at the kindergarten: yelled at, yanked, humiliated.

The video below shows kids being yanked, shoved, yelled at: "Do you live in a pigsty at your home?" 

The teacher is captured saying: "What kind of kids are these? I see "miracles" like this for the first time in my life." Then, towards one child: "I'll throw you out of here. Go, don't disturb our work."

The teacher exclaims "SILENCE! If you keep screaming, we won't go outside, you'll take your coats off and we'll go do maths."

Family psychotherapy expert Andrija Likova said this is emotional and physical violence. Children are in these tense circumstances for a long time, their brain is unable to absorb new information and learn. Plus, this attitude can carry on into adult life.

Midgets, scatterbrains, crybabies - these are words used in children's faces and  behind their backs. The journalist said she had observed that teachers are not too interested in children themselves. When she asked a teacher whether a crying boy should not be talked to, the answer was that parents are the ones to talk to and these kinds of children should be "expelled because there are queues to the kindergarten."

The broadcast showed the video material to the head of the kindergarten, Iveta Vitkovska. She responded that pedagogues should be professional and sometimes strict, some episodes are not appropriate, when children are humiliated.

However, from Vitkovska's words it could be gathered that she does not see her responsibility. Instead, she turned to Rīga City Council against the broadcast and asked parents to complain to the State Inspectorate For Protection Of Children's Rights. The LTV broadcast turned to the Inspectorate with the materials, too.

The Inspectorate said that complaints about kindergartens are frequent, many concerning violence. It is not exactly hitting or punching the children, but shaking and yanking, according to the Inspectorate Chair Jānis Ābele.

It is even more difficult with emotional violence, as children are not always able to tell anyone about it, and it is difficult to ask children about it without traumatizing them even more, said Ābele.

The psychotherapist Andrija Likova said another issue is that parents hesitate to complain as they are afraid it might turn against their children. She encouraged parents not to remain on the sidelines:

"I want to encourage parents to go and change things and speak about boundaries, needs, children's best interests, say in a friendly way: can i help somehow, may I participate, I see my child is down, can I do something as a parent. This way, develop this healthy model where the parent, teacher, kindergarten are collaborating and solving problems without waiting until consequences are serious."

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