Half of world’s teens experience peer violence in and around school – UNICEF

Physical fights and bullying disrupt the education of 150 million 13-15-year-olds worldwide

06 September 2018
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A student at St. Francis of Assisi School, and other girls, check their smart phones after classes in the Central Visayas city of Cebu, Philippines.

Report, photos and b-roll, including of UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Lilly Singh in South Africa, available for download here.

BANGKOK, 6 September 2018 Half of students aged 13 to 15 worldwide – around 150 million – report having experienced peer-to-peer violence in and around school, according to a new report released by UNICEF today. In East Asia and Pacific Region*, 30.4 million 13 to 15 year olds children experience some form of violence in and around school.

An Everyday Lesson: #ENDviolence in Schools says that peer violence – measured as the number of children who report having been bullied in the last month or having been involved in a physical fight in the last year – is a pervasive part of young people’s education around the world. It impacts student learning and well-being in rich and poor countries alike.

“Education is the key to building peaceful societies, and yet, for millions of children around the world, school itself is not safe,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “Every day, students face multiple dangers, including fighting, pressure to join gangs, bullying – both in person and online, violent discipline, sexual harassment and armed violence. In the short-term this impacts their learning, and in the long-term it can lead to depression, anxiety and even suicide. Violence is an unforgettable lesson that no child needs to learn.”

The report outlines a variety of ways students face violence in and around the classroom. According to the latest available data from UNICEF:  

  • Globally, slightly more than 1 in 3 students aged 13-15 experience bullying, and roughly the same proportion are involved in physical fights.
  • 3 in 10 students in 39 industrialised countries admit to bullying peers.
  • In 2017, there were 396 documented or verified attacks on schools in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 26 on schools in South Sudan, 67 attacks in the Syrian Arab Republic and 20 attacks in Yemen.  
  • Nearly 720 million school-aged children live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited.
  • While girls and boys are equally at risk of bullying, girls are more likely to become victims of psychological forms of bullying and boys are more at risk of physical violence and threats.

The report notes that violence involving weapons in schools, such as knives and guns, continues to claim lives. It also says that in an increasingly digital world, bullies are disseminating violent, hurtful and humiliating content with the tap of a key.

An Everyday Lesson: #ENDviolence in Schools is released as part of the UNICEF #ENDviolence global campaign. It is also part of a collective effort to shed light on and spark action to #ENDviolence in and around schools by organizations including UNICEF, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), UNESCO, other members of the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and UNGEI.

As part of the campaign, UNICEF is holding a number of #ENDviolence Youth Talks around the world over the coming months. The series of student-led discussions will give young people a platform to share their experiences of violence and voice what they need to feel safe in and around school, and will inform a set of recommendations to global leaders. In July, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Lilly Singh, launched the first Youth Talk in South Africa with a group of students aged 13 to 19.

To end violence in schools, UNICEF and partners are calling for urgent action in the following areas:

  • Implementing policies and legislation to protect students from violence in schools. Since 2016, corporal punishment in Mongolia has been illegal in all settings (including the home).  
  • Strengthening prevention and response measures in schools.
  • Urging communities and individuals to join students as they speak up about violence and work to change the culture of classrooms and communities. For example, in Mongolia UNICEF is working with singers and artists, to explain the importance of eliminating violence against children. A special song in Mongolian, titled ‘Ever innocent child', was released to amplify the call for a respectful and supportive approach to children’s rights.
  • Making more effective and targeted investments in proven solutions that help students and schools stay safe. For example, in Cambodia, UNICEF is working with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport to end violence in schools through a positive discipline teacher-training programme. The programme is designed to help educators understand the different types of violence and their responsibility to prevent it. The training emphasizes that teaching children better behaviour is more effective than punishing them.
  • Collecting better, disaggregated data on violence against children in and around schools and sharing what works.

UNICEF is encouraging young people around the world to raise their voices to #ENDviolence in and around schools and to tell us how they are working together and what solutions they are using to #ENDviolence in and around schools once and for all. Find out more at https://uni.cf/end-violence.

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Notes to Editors:

Multimedia assets can be downloaded here.

Learn more about UNICEF’s #ENDviolence global campaign here.

*Countries in East Asia and Pacific Region in the report, include: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Cook Islands, Fiji, Indonesia, Kiribati, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, Niue, Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Viet Nam.

About UNICEF
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit: www.unicef.org

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For more information, please contact:

Helen Wylie, UNICEF New York, Tel: +1 917 244 2215, hwylie@unicef.org

Shima Islam, UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office, Bangkok, Tel: +66 (0) 2 356 9407, ssislam@unicef.org

Media Contacts

Shima Islam

Regional Communication Specialist

UNICEF EAPRO

Tel: +66 (0)23569407

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF East Asia & Pacific and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/eap

Follow UNICEF East Asia & Pacific on Twitter and Facebook