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Where the mind is without fear

Oct 13, 2008

Plan's new report, Learn without fear is an extension of the global campaign to end violence in schools where millions of children are subjected to sexual violence, corporal punishment and bullying by teachers. The report envisions a world where children can dream of learning without the fear of being abused.

Girls as young as ten are being forced to have sex by their teachers to pass exams, and threatened with poor grades and failure if they refuse, according to a groundbreaking report on school violence published by Plan.

Plan Report

The report is part of Plan's "Learn Without Fear" campaign, designed to end all forms of violence against children in schools. It shows that sexual violence is institutionalized in many schools throughout Africa with many teachers ruthlessly exploiting pupils by demanding sex.

Most victims are too scared, ashamed, or traumatized to speak out and school authorities are often unwilling to investigate accusations. The problem is not just confined to Africa . The report also reveals shocking evidence of sexual abuse in Latin America and Asia . In many places, the issue is compounded by cultural attitudes towards women and girls that make it extremely difficult for victims to resist their attackers or get justice.

Sexually assaulted

Ana, 19 from El Salvador , had been abandoned by her parents and was not yet a teenager when she was sexually assaulted by her teacher. She said: "My grandma put me in school and always told me to obey my teacher. I grew up thinking that if I didn't obey my teacher I would be punished.

"When my teacher asked me to stay with him after class I obeyed, and I obeyed when he asked me to allow him to touch me because he said that he was like a father to me and that he had to teach me fatherly things because I didn't have a father. I was 10 or 11 at that time and I thought he cared about me much more than my own parents because he had never left me."

Sexual assault is just one form of violence in school that affects millions of children throughout the world. Each year, it's estimated more than 350,000,000 children fall victim to some form of violence in school: the sheer scale of the problem not only affects the individual's personality, mental and physical health, and future potential but also has a knock-on effect for their families, communities and national economies.

Violence in schools ruins the one real chance of a better and more prosperous life for many children, and denies the communities and countries of a vital national asset. And all this is going on everyday, everywhere in schools that are supposed to nurture and protect them.

Comprehensive report

The report, the most comprehensive global examination of school violence yet, focuses on 3 major areas: sexual violence, rape for grades; corporal punishment – beatings, kicking, and humiliation; and bullying. Girls are more likely to be victims of sexual violence, while boys bear the brunt of corporal punishment.

Victims of violence in school are more likely to commit suicide than their classmates. Many die as a direct result of their injuries, or as a consequence of the violence, for example because of pregnancy complications or AIDS. Bullied girls are eight times more likely to be suicidal than their peers.

A Plan spokesperson said: "This report presents shocking and irrefutable evidence that children across the globe are regularly sexually and physically abused by the very adults who have a duty to protect them. Violence in schools is too often viewed as acceptable or necessary by education authorities, parents and governments. But, the evidence uncovered shows it causes lasting mental and physical suffering. Violence is an outrageous violation of children's fundamental rights. Education is supposed to unlock children's' potential not condemn them to an uncertain and vulnerable future.

"We all have a role, whether as individuals, governments, or INGOs, to make sure that children can go to school without fear or threat of violence and receive a quality education in a safe and secure environment. Learn Without Fear" may be Plan's campaign, but it's everyone's responsibility. Ending violence in schools is in all our interest."

Regional launches

Plan's campaign will begin with 4 regional launches in Bangkok , Thailand ; Nairobi , Kenya ; Dakar , Senegal ; and Cartagena , Colombia , with additional spokespersons in London and other European capitals. Key aims of the campaign include:

  • Persuading governments to outlaw all forms of violence against children in school, including corporal punishment and to enforce those laws
  • Working with school leaders and teachers create violence-free schools and promote alternative discipline methods to corporal punishment
  • Creating a global momentum for change including increased resources from international donors and governments to tackle violence in schools in developing countries
  • During the 3 year campaign, Plan will work directly with at least 5,000 schools in 40 countries to tackle violence.
Source : Plan
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