School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGBV) is defined as any form of violence experienced by school children on their way to school, in or around school and on their way back from school. It has become a subtle pandemic eating deep into all strata of education in Nigeria. Itsalarming report in tertiary and secondary institution of learning spurredYouthcare to go further into investigating its prevalence and pattern in primary schools which is the first level of learning in Nigeria.
Results from this baseline survey revealed a prevalence rate of 38.8% at the Federal Capital and 39.5% in Lagos State which shows the predicament of the nation as a whole. This further confirms as revealed in literature that violence starts at an early age but due to the culture of silence there exist no current data at this level thus making this work relevant and significant to the ongoing conversation on sexual violence. This should not be ignored as the aftermath effect of SRGBV results in depression, low self-esteem, inability to concentrate and ultimately dropping out of school. These are impediment to the achievement of goals 4 & 5 of the Sustainable Development Goals which areQuality Education and Gender Equality in Nigeria.
Therefore, this Policy brief examines the issue of School Related Gender Based Violence on the total development of the child.
At the heart of development is education as it has been globally accepted to be the key ingredient in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Every child in Nigeria has a right to free and quality primary education (Child Right Act 2003). Education is said to be quality when it is effective, empowering, equitable, sustainable and appropriate which protects, promotes health and strengthens resilience in learners. However, our institution of learning hitherto known for peace and security is gradually becoming a high riskenvironment even at the primary school level. This Policy brief will x- ray the impact of school related gender-based violence (SRGBV) on quality education delivery based on the results from the research work carried out by Youthcare Development and Empowerment Initiative sponsored by the Rockefeller Philanthropist.
GENDER BASED VIOLENCE
Gender based violence (GBV) affects millions of children, families and communities undermining their health, dignity, security and autonomy. Its different types include child marriage, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, school related gender-based violence (SRGBV) such assexual violence, physical violence, psychological violence,bullying, teasing, corporal punishment and so on. SRGBV is often defined as any harmful act of sexual, physical, psychological, mental and emotional abuse that is perpetrated against a person’s will in and around the school environment and that is often based on socially ascribed gender differences between males and females.
Globally up to 1 billion children aged 2-17 years have experience one form of violence or emotional violence or neglect (WHO, 2020) however little or nothing has been said about the primary school. Violencehave significant negative impact on the physical, mental, sexual and emotional wellbeing of such children. The only available literature in this wise is a study conducted in 2014 by the National Population Commission (NPopC) which showed a high prevalence (approximately 60%) of violence among adolescents before the age of 18. Specifically, over half of the study population aged 13-24 had their first sexual violence experience when they were between the ages of 6 and 11. This age cohort coincide with primary school age and this calls for concern. This policy brief therefore highlights the research conducted by Youthcare Development and Empowerment Initiative in 5 States (Edo, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Oyo) including the Federal Capital Territory which showed a high prevalence rate of 47.1% of SRGBV in the 5 study stateswith male reporting more violence than female. The study further revealed that there is a high rate of bullying with % ranging from 18.3 to 59.2%. This is too high to be ignored.The infrastructural facilities and also the timing of school activities also played a huge role in where and when violence takes place in schools as there were reports that sexual harassment usually happen during break (highest 33%), assembly periods (8%), during sport activities (8%), staff meeting (8%), school clubs (8%)and after school hours (25%) (Figure 1) with location usually in secluded places e.g. toilet (34%), at the back of school (14%), field/bush area (9%), uncompleted buildings (8%) and empty classrooms (4%)
School Related Gender Based Violence (SRGV) is not without any effect on the pupils because pupils reported depression, low self-esteem, inability to concentrate in school, being absent from schools as the aftermath of the violence (Table 1) and all these may lead to pupils dropping out of school. The effect of this violence in schools do not promote safety, health and well being of pupils which is a vital factor that contribute to the quality of education delivery in schools.
Table 1: Perception on emotional response to sexual harassment
|Response||Male (%)||Female (%)|
|I feel unsafe at school.||43.91||44.73|
|I don’t have a sense of belonging at school.||53.84||35.14|
|I often feel depressed.||34.88||36.12|
|I often have feelings of low self-confidence/self-esteem.||48.84||41.67|
|I am often afraid to interact with other students.||44.19||27.77|
|Sometimes I feel frustrated at school.||34.89||32.44|
|I am unable to concentrate on my studies/work.||51.17||50.01|
Inadequate training of teachers on SRGBV
In Nigeria, Teachers are the first point of call in primary schools and play a dual role of teacher and counsellor to the pupils. Teachers from the study schools attested to the fact that their pupils are at risk of GBV because cases have been reported to them but they are not aware of the extent to which SRGBV is happening at their schools and do not know how to correctly handle cases reported to them because they have not received proper training on how to handle such cases. Results from the study showed that the ratio of teachers trained on SRGBV to the number that have handled cases is low with about65.9% of the teachers have not had any training on SRGBV while 51.4 % have handled cases of sexual harassment. This is alarming and needs serious attention (Figure 3, 4). This means that over 30% of the teachers who have handled cases of SRGBV have not received any training on case management and care for survivor which could mean cases were not properly handled. This could also be responsible for the low percentages of support services provided to pupils who have been sexually harassed in the states (figure 5).
|Figure 3: Number of Teachers Trained on Guidance and Counselling, and on Gender-Based Violence, by State.|
|Figure 3a. Guidance and counselling training||Figure 3b. Gender-based violence training|
Number of Teachers surveyed
Numbers of Teachers surveyed.
|Source: Author’s computation from field survey, 2020.|
Support services provided to sexually harassed pupils by the States
|Fig 5: Percentage of Support Services Provided to Sexually Harassed Pupils by State|
Policy Option and Recommendations
Stemming from the findings of the study, the following recommendations are proposed:
- Sexuality education is imperative for the pupils to equip and empower them so as to be assertive and to have power over their body.
- Sensitization of stakeholders (head teacher, class teachers and school governance structures)
- Ensure safety features at schools: by erecting fences around the school premises, clear and open ground, equitable use of school amenities e.g water sources, mapping areas prone to GBV and set up monitoring mechanisms
- Each school institute School bi-laws that implement the standards and Interventions against GBV through effective engagement of teachers, parents and students e.g regular meetings, school clubs and student leaders embracing GBV awareness
- Regular Teacher training on GBV, systems to report and case management of GBV
- Key stakeholders be involved in reporting and addressing GBV e.g. The Police, Head teacher, parents, school governance structures e.g mother groups, PTA and community leaders
- Provision of structured referral centers and psycho-social counselling centers within the school premises(safe spaces)
- A code of conduct for teachers and pupils (that include stiffer punishments for perpetrators)
- Children should be enlightened to be assertive
- Pupils’ guidance and counseling program
- Capacity building on GBV for boys and girls (school prefects)
- Formation of safe spaces and SAY NO TO SRGBV Clubs headed by pupils as ambassadors
- Engagement of parents in understanding the needs of the children through community dialogues.
- Parents should understand the role of social support especially from family
- Parenting education on SRGBV and its effects on the total development of the child.
- Effective implementation of child friendly centers in neighborhoods and communities as most cases occur in the communities
- Advocacy and sensitization through community dialogues
- Effective implementation of child friendly safety standards in all schools
- Sensitization of community leaders
- Community ambassadors on SRGBV should be selected and empower to provide psycho social support for victims
Youthcare Development and Empowerment Initiative acknowledges Rockefeller Philanthropist Advisory for providing the grant for this project. A special thanks to all the officers at the Universal Basic Education (UBEC) office in Abuja and that of the various states (SUBEB) and all the schools head – teachers, teachers, parents and pupils for their consent to participate in the research. This research work will not have been completed without the support of all the research team members, my co- researchers (Echidna Scholars Madalo Samanti (Malawi), Mary Otieno (Kenya) and Dasmine Kennedy(Jamaica)) who collected their country baseline survey too at the same time. Lastly, I wish to acknowledge the technical advice from Christina Kwauk, Non-Research Fellow,The Brookings institution, USA and Tamryn Batcheller-Adams of tomorrowtodayglobal, South Africa.