On January 24, we celebrate the this year’s theme “to invest in people, prioritize education.” The day calls for maintaining strong political mobilization around education and charting the way to translate commitments and global initiatives into action.
We know that safe, equitable, gender-transformative education is a fundamental human right and has immense power to transform the lives of individuals, communities, and nations.
Unfortunately, we also know that schools are not always safe. Across the globe, Violence Against Children and Youth Survey (VACS) data shows that students experience high rates of gender-based violence in and around school settings.
Data from the Violence Against Children and Youth Surveys (VACS) shows that children experience physical and sexual violence in schools. A few insights we’ve gleaned from VACS data regarding violence in schools include:
For many children and adolescents, school is where they experience the first incidence of sexual violence.
Peer violence is also frequent in and around schools. Boys tend to perpetrate and experience higher levels of physical violence. When girls perpetrate physical violence, it is often against other female students.
Students often experience physical violence by teachers. Both male and female students report higher levels of violence by male teachers.
Violence has a severe impact on students' well-being and education. Many children subsequently miss school after experiencing violence.
While violence in schools is prevalent, it is also preventable, and there are evidence-based solutions that show that teachers and school personnel can be significant changemakers when they take active roles in preventing, addressing, and responding to school-related violence.
For example, Beacon Teachers Africa empowers educators to make school a safer place through positive approaches to discipline in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Botswana. Through the organization’s work, teachers are trained to detect, prevent, and report cases of child abuse as well as sensitize community members on how to keep children safe.
Teachers' unions have also taken measures to respond to and prevent violence in schools. The Education Unions Take Action to End School-Related Gender-Based Violence (SRGBV) program has empowered teachers as active agents of change in seven African countries. For example, in Zambia, the union used school clubs as entry points for addressing SRGBV. They also provided suggestion boxes to students and school staff to report cases of violence in a safe and less intimidating way (UNGEI et al., 2018).
In Tanzania and Uganda, the Interaction Competencies with Children for Teachers training workshop has proven effective in reducing violence at schools. The intervention consists of a 5.5-day training workshop for teachers to prevent violent discipline. The focus is on teaching non-violent interaction strategies and promoting a warm, sensitive, and reliable teacher-child relationship (Kirika & Hecker, 2022).
In February, Together for Girls will join Safe to Learn, The Global Partnership for Education, UNICEF, Save the Children, Plan International and UNGEI to organize an official side event during Education Cannot Wait’s High-Level Financing Conference (HLFC).
The event will feature youth and survivor advocates sharing solutions and respondents committing to actions needed to ensure all children everywhere, in every context, are safe to learn. The aim of the event and of the HLFC is to mobilize the resources and political will needed to support the educational needs of children and youth left behind in crises and to highlight the crucial role of education in preventing violence.
VACS data makes it clear that efforts to create safe and supportive school environments are essential in promoting educational access and completion. On the International Day of Education and every day, we must commit to upholding the human right to safe, quality education for all children and adolescents.
Learn more about Together for Girl’s focus on creating safe, equitable, and gender-transformative schools.