By Anayo Ezugwu
For millions of students around the world, the school environment is no longer a safe place to study and grow. It has become a danger zone where students learn in fear. The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, said dangers students face in school includes threatening teachers, bullying, cyberbullying, sexual assault and violence.
UNICEF, in its latest report titled “An Everyday Lesson: #ENDviolence in Schools” said far too often students are forced to take cover as gunfire invades their classroom. Sometimes this violence is caused by war or community conflict; other times it is a student with a gun.
A UNICEF analysis of data underscores how common violence is in schools around the world. The report stated that globally, half of students aged 13 to 15, about 150 million, report experiencing peer-to-peer violence in and around school. This number, it said includes students who report having been bullied in the last month or having had a physical fight within the past year.
The report noted that bullying and physical fights are not the only types of violence. It said students routinely deal with corporal and other degrading forms of punishment, physical and sexual attacks and gender-based violence. “For example, about 720 million school-age children live in countries where they are not fully protected by law from corporal punishment at school.
“Indeed, violence in schools puts bodies, minds and lives at risk. It causes physical injury and can lead to depression, anxiety and suicide. It has short-term effects on students’ educational achievement and leaves a long-term impression on their futures. In El Salvador, 23 percent of students aged 13 to 15 said they had not attended school on one or more days in the past month due to safety concerns.”
According to the report, the impact of violence in schools places an economic burden on society. It has been estimated that the global costs of the consequences of violence against children are as high as US$7 trillion per year. Though violence against children is common, it is never acceptable – in school or anywhere. And ending it is not impossible.
“Indeed, school may be one place where we all truly have the power to #ENDviolence. Schools are monitored environments where students and adults come together for a single purpose: to teach and learn. In these defined settings, we can end violence – and we must. Education itself can play a powerful role.
“Education can transform beliefs and behaviours that lead to violence. It can engage children and adolescents in critical self-reflection and help teachers, parents and communities work together to promote social cohesion, gender equality and peace. Efforts are under way around the world to #ENDviolence in and around schools. In some schools, the answer is to invest in supervised and orderly facilities, clean and protected toilets, and safe routes to and from school.
“In other schools, the focus is on training teachers and involving parents and communities in creating safe learning environments. Partnerships are also under way to make a difference. For example, the Strong Schools and Communities Initiative in Latin America and the Caribbean supports the creation and dissemination of school-based and community-based interventions and interventions for national and local authorities. The initiative is spearheaded by the Global Business Coalition for Education, A World at School and UNICEF.”
In ending violence against students, the report stated that in schools around the world, students have founded Peace Clubs, marched to draw attention to violence in schools, and provided support to survivors, and demanded policies and progress from political leaders.
“But there is more to do. That is why UNICEF is teaming up with DFID, UNESCO, other members of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and UNGEI to shed light on and spark action to #ENDviolence in and around schools. As students take their fight to #ENDviolence from the classroom to the streets, it is time we all joined them to create a world where no child learns in fear.”
According to the report, school may be the most influential institution in children’s lives, ranking just below family and home as the foundation on which they build their futures. It stated that in the best cases, schools should be safe and encouraging spaces where children gain the knowledge and skills they need to navigate adult life.
Schools can buffer children from the risks of child labour, exploitation and child marriage. In school, a child can find shelter from violence and choose a more peaceful future. In addition, education can engage children and adolescents in self-reflection about their role in ending violence and provide them with the resources and space they need to examine harmful norms and practices. Education systems can equip teachers, parents and communities to work together to promote principles of social cohesion, gender equality and peace.
For far too many young people around the world, however, school is dangerous. Instead of a haven that nourishes learning, inclusivity and friendships, schools introduce harmful relationships characterised by exclusion, bullying or aggression.
– Sept. 14, 2018 @ 16:05 GMT |