20 February 2024

Press Release: Eliza Society and Piraeus Bank present the Kindergarten Program for the Prevention of Child Neglect and Abuse “Recognize – Protect”

On Monday, November 20, in the presence of the Minister of Education, Religion, and Sports, Mr. Kyriakos Pierrakakis, the CEO of Piraeus Bank, Mr. Christos Megalou, and the two founders of the Eliza Society, Prince Michael and Mrs. Marina Karellas, president of the Board of Directors, the presentation of the “Recognize – Protect” Program was held. The program is implemented by the Eliza Society, with Piraeus Bank as its strategic partner.

During the first pilot phase of the Nursery Program for the prevention of child neglect and abuse, it is expected that 1650 nursery teachers will benefit, followed by all preschool educators in the country (approximately 16,500).

In the European Union, it is estimated that 18 million children experience sexual abuse before adulthood, 44 million have suffered physical abuse, and 55 million have been victims of psychological violence (WHO, 2020), while almost 3 out of 4 children (300 million children) aged 2-4 years regularly experience physical punishment and/or psychological violence from their parents or caregivers (WHO, 2022).

Internationally, regarding abuse/neglect incidents, early intervention is advocated as the most crucial and effective way to reduce the adverse effects of child maltreatment, as it provides an opportunity to mitigate serious, irreversible consequences (Conroy & Brown, 2004).

Based on the need for early recognition and intervention, the mandatory nature of preschool education (pre-kindergarten and kindergarten), and the legal obligation of educators at every school level to formally report suspected cases of abuse/neglect (Law 3500/16, article 23), the Eliza Society, under the scientific guidance of Dr. Lida Anagnostaki, Associate Professor at TEPAE NKUA, and Dr. George Nicolaides, Director of the Child Health Institute, with the contribution of legal expert Dr. Electra Koutsoukou, designed an innovative training program for recognizing and managing incidents of alleged child abuse for preschool educators.

The innovation of the program lies in the fact that the educational material will be shaped following relevant research, from which the specific needs of educators – kindergarten teachers will emerge.

The program “Recognize – Protect” is implemented through the strategic collaboration of Piraeus Bank and is integrated into the comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility program “EQUALL.”

Implementation Stages of the Program

Phase 1 – Extended Pilot – Research Phase

  • Needs assessment of 10% of the total number of kindergarten teachers in the country working in public kindergartens
  • Development of educational program
  • Digitization of educational material to ensure the sustainability of the program
  • 15-hour training for the kindergarten teachers who participated in the research Evaluation of acquired knowledge

Phase 2: Training of all interested kindergarten teachers in the country, through 12-hour asynchronous and 3-hour synchronous training.

Welcoming the event, the CEO of Piraeus Bank, Mr. Christos Megalou, emphasized, among other things: “The protection of vulnerable social groups, such as children, is one of the pillars of the EQUALL program for human equality. As a major banking organization, we must have a positive social presence and build creative relationships with the society in which we live and work. Therefore, we strive for our actions to meet real social needs and promote social development, progress, solidarity, and prosperity, as the foundations for a better tomorrow. And our children are the real bridge to this better tomorrow and our greatest responsibility for today.” Mr. Megalou also referred to the importance of the support of the Ministry of Education for the implementation of the program, stating: “It strengthens cooperation with the educational community through which the goals of the program can be achieved. It is also a tangible proof of the value that collaborations between the public and private sectors can have when they set common goals, especially in addressing important social needs that concern us all equally.”

On his part, the Minister of Education, Religions, and Sports, Mr. Kyriakos Pierrakakis, emphasized: “Zero tolerance for the abuse of children. This should unite us, this is what we should all dedicate ourselves to, this is our purpose. Children are the future, there is no continuity without our children, and we have an obligation to safeguard their physical and mental health. To achieve this goal, educators, who are the backbone of education, undertake, among other things, a crucial role, that of multiplying the message. At the Ministry of Education, we will support every initiative that contributes to the eradication of child abuse, such as the program of the Eliza organization, which was placed under the auspices of the Ministry. The union of forces is the only way for the rapid response to phenomena that endanger the healthy development of children.”

The Director of Eliza, Ms. Vanna Marketaki, stated during her presentation of the program, among other things, that “preventing the phenomenon of neglect and abuse of children protects both children and their families, as we intervene early, advisory, before the child is detached from their family environment. It is extremely important for us at Eliza that this need is understood by companies that, as strategic partners, contribute to the realization of our plans. The Piraeus Bank has undertaken this important role of a strategic partner for us, and for that, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Equally important is the auspices of the Ministry of Education, which embraced the program with confidence, urging, in this way, kindergarten teachers to participate.”

The scientifically responsible, Director of the Child Health Institute, Psychiatrist, Dr. George Nikolaides, stated that “the abuse – neglect of children is a serious social problem – challenge for modern societies. Given the extent of the phenomenon and the frequent inability of children – victims to seek help, addressing it must be a permanent function of the mechanisms in which the general child population is included, and more specifically primary health care and education. Therefore, the strengthening of educational units of all levels and through the introduction of the necessary institutional procedures, but primarily through the comprehensive education of education professionals, is of paramount importance for the successful implementation of effective child protection and prevention policies. In this sense, the program starting now is the best investment in the most important component of our country’s future social capital: the protection of our children.”

The scientifically responsible, Associate Professor at TEAPH of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Leda Anagnostaki, in turn, stated, “It is a great pleasure to ‘move forward’ in this program that applies the principles of early and timely intervention. Kindergarten teachers are often the first professionals to come into contact with young children and their families and can contribute decisively to the prevention and management of behaviors and situations that injure and burden young children now, tomorrow’s adults, and society in the future.”

Vanna Marketaki, Director of the Eliza Association / Marina Karella, Founder and President of the Board of Directors of Eliza / Kyriakos Pierrakakis, Minister of Education, Religions, and Sports / Dr. George Nicolaides, Psychiatrist, Director of the Child Health Institute / Dr. Leda Anagnostaki, Psychologist, Associate Professor at TEIAPTH of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens / Dr. Electra Koutsoukou, Lawyer, PhD in Children’s Rights / Christos Megalou, CEO of Piraeus Bank / Prince Michael, Founder of the Eliza Association