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.”