Violence can occur at school and on the way to and from school.
Violence keeping children out of school, especially girls
A major focus of Plan's Because I am a Girl initiative is overcoming the barriers keeping girls from receiving a quality education and completing school. One major barrier stands in the way: the prevalence of violence in and around schools.
Although every child has a right to go to school without fear of being hurt, teased, abused or bullied, this is sadly not a reality for millions of children here at home and around the world – especially girls.
In our latest report, A Girl's Right to Learn Without Fear, we found that between 500 and 1.5 million children around the world experience violence every year, including girls right here in Canada.
- Sexual violence – this includes harassment, rape, abuse, coercion and exploitation. According to the World Health Organization, globally, sexual violence has affected an estimated 150 million girls and 73 million boys under the age of 18. Most cases of sexual violence are committed by people a child may know – including teachers, peers and members of the community. For example, authority figures may abuse their power to engage in 'sex for grades' or for waiving school fees.
- Bullying – is carried out through verbal or physical acts that inflict pain and suffering on a child over a period of time. The way bullying is expressed is gendered: while boys are more likely to use fear, intimidation or physical force, girls tend to bully one another through verbal abuse, like gossip, bad rumours or social exclusion. Teachers, too, may engage in different forms of bullying, by making children feel worthless or stupid.
- Cyber-bullying – a surge of new technology is often accompanied with new ways to commit bullying. Text messages, email and social media can turn violent and manifest in the classroom, and beyond school grounds. Though digital channels can provide a positive space for girls, they also present dangers and new avenues for violence to take place.
- Physical and psychological violence as 'discipline' – in many parts of the world, students are exposed to corporal punishment as a form of discipline. Being spanked, slapped, hit, shaken, kicked, beaten or belted – these are all forms of violence teachers or school administrators may inflict on their students. Psychological violence is also present in schools, where children may fear being belittled, humiliated, threatened or ridiculed by staff and peers.
A safe learning environment will ensure children receive the education they deserve.
How do we stop the violence?
Violence in schools is a shared problem that reflects some of the deeply-embedded social and cultural norms associated with authority, discipline, gender roles and discrimination. Too often, violence is used as a way to underscore common gender inequalities in and around schools.
Poor protection policies and weak law enforcement at schools causes the problem to persist. Violence in schools can lead children to have low academic achievement, drop out of school, and have increased health problems. Violence in schools also violates the rights of children to feel safe at school, at home, and in the community.
Our report also focuses on solutions, with recommendations for all governments, including Canada's, to put an end to violence against children, with a special focus on girls. All recommendations should be in line with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.