Gender Gender

Stop gender-based violence in schools

IN ONE of his most famous quotes former South African president Nelson Mandela said education was the most powerful weapon that can change the world. Although education is critical for the empowerment and transformation of young people, sadly most of them have been victims of school-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) which impacts negatively on them. According to Plan International, SRGBV which has far-reaching consequences affects an estimated 246 million boys and girls in and around schools every year.
By definition, SRGBV is sexual, physical and psychological violence that takes place in an education setting. This is as a result of gender stereotyping, discriminatory practices and unequal gender relations. It can also include threats or acts of physical violence, bullying, verbal or sexual harassment, non-consensual touching, sexual coercion assault, and rape. Corporal punishment which has been banned by Government is another form of SRGBV. Although schools are expected to play the most important role of eradicating this vice, some teachers are in the forefront of perpetrating it by acting with impunity because laws to safeguard the welfare of children are not stiff enough.
Boys and girls can be victims and perpetrators of SRGBV. Girls are at greater risk of sexual violence, while boys are usually exposed to corporal punishment and bullying. As perpetrators boys use physical bullying while girls are likely to use verbal or psychological forms of violence. Although cases are not always clear cut: girls also commit violent acts and boys also experience sexual abuse.
What is important to note is that when SRGBV is not properly managed, it can negatively affect the physical and psychological well-being of the victims. It impacts on the ability to learn, class attendance, leading to increased drop outs and unsafe or violent school environments.
While sexual violence is another form of SRGBV that contributes to the poor performance of girls often resulting in unplanned pregnancies from sexual coercion and rape that effectively mark the end of the education of these girls.
Given that most young people have experienced some form of SRGBV in their school life, it is commendable that the Basic Education Teachers Union of Zambia (BETUZ) has initiated a project to reduce gender-based violence.
BETUZ Gender co-ordinator Angela Chisanga recently said the ‘School-related GBV’ project is aimed at addressing GBV in schools which is on the increase.
She said BETUZ carried out a baseline survey in schools that revealed that there were numerous cases of harassment such as sexual, physical and mental.
It is important to note that teachers have been trained and empowered to deal with SRGBV while clubs have been formed to sensitise pupils on the dangers of GBV in schools.
Ms Chisanga hopes the programme will have a positive impact on the pupils and will contribute to positive change amongst pupils.
This programme will not only support pupils in the way they interact or relate with each other, but will also sensitise pupils to know their rights and how to deal with SRGBV when confronted with it.
Cases of SRGBV are not only confined to schools; it is my hope that relevant stakeholders will explore how to deliberating introduce such programmes in institutions of higher learning where such vices also happen. It is only by ensuring best practices in all institutions that Zambia will be confidently be able to change the world for the better going by the words of one the famous icons of modern times – Nelson Mandela.
Remember, children are our future, until next week, take care.
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