Kids Give Bullying the Cold Shoulder

Elementary schools in Egilsstaðir are taking a novel approach to bullying by electing a group of children to be responsible for making sure that none of their peers get bored or are left out during recess and free time. RÚV reports that the Vinaliðar, or Friendship Coordinators project has already been successful at reducing incidents of playground teasing and bullying.

Students themselves elect the Friendship Coordinators—all boys and girls in the 4th to 7th grades—themselves. The coordinators lead games and encourage their peers to take part and also make sure to let teachers know if any students are being excluded or subjected to bullying.

Helgi Magnús Gunnlaugsson, a Friendship Coordinator in the 5th grade says that students elect representatives who they “…trust will let other people play, too. It’s really good for other people, so they don’t feel bad at school, so they get to do something besides just being alone.”

Studies have shown that the majority of bullying takes place on school grounds during recess and that the likeliness that students will be picked on goes up when there’s a lack of activities. Student Sigurbjörg Óskarsdóttir says that she noticed a change after the Vinaliðar program started. “I think this is a very good solution,” she said. “To have this kind of thing at recess. I’ve been here for a few years and I can totally see the change. When the Friends Coordinators project is going on, kids are usually pretty relaxed.”

Sigríður Baxter is one of the adult facilitators of the project at the Egilsstaðir elementary school. “I would say that the kids who don’t have many friends are less obvious because they can go everywhere in groups and play,” she explained. “The project helps those kids find something to do and you just don’t see bullying happening. Whether you have few friends or are really popular, everyone’s equal and these are games that everyone can take part in and usually, everyone thinks they are really fun. As such, I would say that this [has been] really positive in all schools,” she continued. “No one gets bored and no one is alone.”

Increased Number of Travellers Denied Entry

Keflavík airport Icelandair

An increasing number of travellers are being stopped at Keflavík International Airport with falsified travel documents, are being denied entry at the border, or else are attempting to travel without any identification whatsoever, RÚV reports.

So far this year, 57 travellers have been detained at the airport with falsified travel documents. Eighteen of these individuals were attempting to fly from Iceland to Canada, 15 to Ireland, 14 to the UK, and one to the US. Nine of these individuals had Iceland as their final destination. The majority of falsified travel documents this year—21 of 57—have been either faked Italian or Greek IDs. The majority of individuals attempting to travel with these falsified documents—16 of 57—have been Albanian.

Police in the Suðurnes peninsula also report that an increasing number of travellers are attempting to fly without any travel documents whatsoever. In the first nine months of this year, there have been 70 people stopped without identification. Last year, there were 91 people stopped for not having travel documents during the course of the entire year.

An increased number of people are also being denied entry to Iceland at airport passport control. From January 1 to the end of September, 103 people were not allowed to enter Iceland. This is a significant increase from last year, when 54 people were denied entry at the border over the course of the whole year. In 2016, only 26 people were denied entry at passport control, 21 in 2015, and 18 in 2014.

Police have also had increased cause to search the Schengen information system and Interpol database. Police conducted 161 searches in the Schengen database for various reasons in the first nine months of the year, as compared to 123 searches during all of 2017. They searched the Interpol database 85 times in the same time period, as compared to 93 times in 2017.

Iceland 24th in Global Competitiveness

Iceland ranks 24th in this year’s Global Competitiveness Report published by the World Economic Forum. RÚV reports that Iceland has risen four spots in the ranking since last year.

The Global Competitiveness Index defines national competitiveness as “as the set of institutions, policies and factors that determine the level of [a country’s] productivity. 140 countries are ranked. In the 2018 report, the United States ranks first in competitiveness with a score of 85.6. It’s followed by Singapore, Germany, Switzerland, and Japan. Iceland scored 74.5, just barely beating out Malaysia, closed out the top twenty-five at 74.4. Burundi (37.5), Angola, Haiti, Yemen, and Chad (35.5) were ranked the lowest in this year’s report.

Rankings were determined based on a variety of factors, or subcategories, in “pillar” areas such as “Enabling Environment,” “Human Capital,” “Markets,” and “Innovative Ecosystem.” Iceland’s highest ranking came in the subcategory of Macroeconomic Stability, where it achieved a perfect 100 and, as such, ranked #1. It also scored highly in ICT (Internet and Communication Technology) Adoption (Rank 7, Score 83), Skills (Rank 9, Score 83), and Health (Rank 10, Score 98). Its lowest rankings were in the subcategories of Market Size (Rank 131, Score 31), Product Market (Rank 43, Score 61), and Financial System (Rank 36, Score 69).

See the full rankings and country-by-country analysis here.

Three Admit to Setting School on Fire

Three men in their twenties have confessed to being responsible for the fire that took place at Laugalækjarskóli elementary school earlier this month, RÚV reports. It’s suspected that the men were under the influence when they set the fire.

Per the information provided by Detective Superintendent Jóhann Karl Þórisson, the young men used lighter fluid to set a pile of dry leaves on fire against the wall of the school in order to keep themselves warm. The fire grew beyond their control, however, and spread to the wall paneling in a connective structure in the building, before moving upwards to the roof.

The official investigation into the situation is now complete and it is being left to the discretion of capital-area police as to whether the men should be charged.