26 February, 2015 - Seven in 10 children in Asia experience violence at school: new study

Plan International Australia Child Rights Specialist Sophie Shugg is available for interviews, grabs, etc. Please call Adam Cathro on 0488 202 945 to arrange.

Seven out of 10 children in the Asian region are experiencing violence at school, according to a landmark study conducted by child rights organisation Plan International.

The study looked at students’ experience of violence, including gender-based violence, in school, on the way to school, and at home in Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan, and Nepal. The study was conducted in conjunction with the International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW).

The report finds that students’ experience with violence is as high as 84 per cent in Indonesia. Even the lowest incidence of violence – 43 per cent in Pakistan – is still distressingly high. Overall, seven out of 10 children report having experienced violence at school. Alarmingly, 43 per cent of students report doing nothing when they saw an incidence of violence at school.

The study also found that, in Pakistan, nearly 50 per cent of violence at school was committed by a school staff member, while one in three girls in Asia who experience violence at school will never report the incident.

The report also includes specific recommendations, including school-based programming to change behaviour and attitudes regarding gender and violence, the establishment of services to enhance protection, and the enactment of policies and laws to prohibit and enforce regulations abolishing violence against children.

“Every child has the right to a quality education, free from violence and the threat of violence,” says Sophie Shugg, Child Rights Specialist for Plan International Australia. “Plan is committed to working with educators, governments, parents, and students to enact the recommendations in this report, and start to make sure that everyone knows that violence has no place in schools, in the home, or anywhere in a child’s life”.

“To most of us, the belief that our children should have to worry about violence at school is unthinkable. Parents should be able to trust that their kids’ schools are safe, and that an environment of learning should be devoid of violence,” Shugg says.

“Yet according to evidence in the report, violence is distressingly commonplace within schools in Asia,” she adds.

The report cites all incidences of violence, including physical and sexual abuse, emotional violence, and the threat of violence as endemic in these countries. Violence in schools is rife and is perpetrated by teachers, school staff, among students themselves, and from family members.

“This violence is often exacerbated by gender stereotypes. Too often, these gender roles, which define girls as ‘shy’ and ‘obedient’ and boys as ‘dominant’ and ‘aggressive’ are normalised in students’ minds at an early age.”

“In many cases, violence is so commonplace, it becomes normal for children, who don’t report the behaviour, don’t regard it as unusual or wrong, and often become perpetrators themselves. This cycle needs to stop,” says Shugg.

Research was conducted in the five countries over 2013 and 2014. It is part of Plan’s Promoting Equality and Safety in Schools, an innovative program designed to address gender equality and the prevalence of gender-based violence in and on the way to school in the Asia region.

“This study is important as it documents the myriad ways and the extent to which children experience violence in the countries surveyed,” says Nandita Bhatla, Senior Technical Specialist at ICRW

The report, relevant high-resolution photographs, infographics and a first-person human interest story from Vietnam are available here: bit.ly/schoolviolenceplan. Please credit all photos ‘Plan International Australia’.

Editors’ notes:
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world, founded 75 years ago, working in 51 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas and supported by 21 donor countries. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.

Media contact: Adam Cathro, Plan International Australia, Media Relations Manager, 0488 202 945