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Violence and sexual abuse in schools

Violence and sexual abuse in schools
© UNICEF Mozambique
Ensuring that victims know their right and breaking the culture of silence surrounding sexual abuse are both necessary conditions to overcome the problem.

MAPUTO, Mozambique, 13 June 2011 – Sexual abuse in schools is an area of particular concern, as noted by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. A 2008 Ministry of Education (MINED) survey revealed that 70 per cent of girl respondents reported knowing that some teachers use sexual intercourse as a condition for promotion between grades, and 50 per cent of girls stated that not only teachers abuse them sexually, but also boys in their peer group. Furthermore, 80 per cent of girls recognized that sexual abuse and harassment occur not only in the schools, but also in the communities. Many girls did not know whether these acts were prohibited by law or where to report them when they occur.

The institutional response to sexual abuse in schools is limited. The study also examined the level of awareness of MINED officials on the issue. Seventy per cent of provincial gender unit staff and 65 per cent of district gender coordinators acknowledged that sexual abuse against girls and early pregnancy were major concerns and important constraints on providing a safe learning environment for girls. School council members were also concerned about sexual abuse and harassment in school and sought strict disciplinary measures against teachers who abuse girls in schools.

MINED has a zero tolerance policy of sexual abuse in schools, but enforcement of this policy remains inconsistent. In 2003, MINED issued a decree prohibiting teachers from having sexual relations with female students and declared zero tolerance of sexual abuse in schools. The 2008 Mozambican Children’s Act reaffirms the duty of school management to report to the relevant authorities any cases of mistreatment of learners. However, follow-up on acts of violence in schools and implementation of the decree remain weak. In 2010, MINED integrated sexual abuse issues into its own work plans and planning guidelines, which was seen as a significant step forward leading to the development of defined actions to strengthen the capacity of provincial gender focal points to monitor and report cases of sexual abuse in schools.

The UN Study on Violence Against Children considers raising awareness essential to influencing social norms, not only for communities and schools, but also for professionals who are in contact with children. Appropriate media attention also raises awareness, promotes open discussion and encourages communities to respond to cases of abuse and exploitation. Making support and rehabilitation services available to victims is also important. Such responses are made significantly more effective by the existence of a strong coordination mechanism. In 2009, MMAS established a multi-sectoral working group on the prevention of violence against children.

While the legal reform process has progressed significantly, translation of the new legislation into effective regulations and programs remains a challenge due to lack of human resources and funds.

For more information, please contact:

Arild Drivdal, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:  

Gabriel Pereira, UNICEF Mozambique, tel. (+258) 21 481 100; email:  



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