Violence in schools can have serious long-term consequences on children’s lives, their futures, and the future of the communities where they live.
For far too many students around the world, violence has become an everyday lesson, but together we can change the situation.
If you are a student, parent or teacher, you can take action to create safe environments where children and young people can live and learn without fear.
- Be kind. Strike up a conversation with a shy classmate or quiet coworker. Even something small can improve someone’s day – especially if they are going through something difficult.
- Speak out. If you are worried about your or a friend’s safety, urgently speak to someone you trust – this could be a parent, teacher, close friend, older sibling, or a child helpline, which are often anonymous. Remember that you are not alone. Do not keep your fears, concerns or questions to yourself. We know it can be difficult to tell another person about what is happening, because of shame or embarrassment, but you have a right to be safe! If it's difficult to talk about, try writing your experiences down and giving it to someone you trust to read or by sending, posting, or dropping it anonymously somewhere a responsible/trusted adult can see.
- Share your ideas. How can schools and communities be made safer for you and your friends and fellow students: have your say.
- Get creative. Create your School Superhero comic to help you and your friend and fellow students feel safe to learn.
- Deepen your knowledge and take action. Use the Safe to Learn activity pack to know more about the issue of violence against children and young people and create your own projects for change:
> Develop a safety charter in your school, or make a ‘paperchain of promises’ to promote safety
> Do a school safety walk and a student-led action plan
> Create a community map and action plan
> Campaign to make schools safer in your country.
Add your voice
to this online survey and mark your school/country on this global map to demonstrate to world leaders that young people are taking action to combat violence.
- Talk openly. Talk to your children about what they think is good and bad behaviour in school, in the community and online. Make sure that they understand the various risks and what to do if something upsets them. It is important to have open communication so that your children will feel comfortable telling you about what is happening in their lives.
- Look closely. Observe children’s emotional state, as some children may not express their concerns verbally. Changes in behaviour, appetite and sleep patterns can also indicate a child’s level of anxiety or discomfort.
- Get involved. Join school meetings or the local parent/teacher association or committee to learn more about the school’s policies on safety and to find out how you can help to address local challenges.
- Be prepared. Learn about the resources that exist in your community to address cases of violence in schools and ensure that other parents and adults in your community are also aware.
- Lead by example. Children learn behaviours and mannerisms from the closest adults to them (parents, teachers, caregivers, etc). Reflect on your own behaviour – your reactions and how you discipline your child – and that of the other adults who your child interacts with. Learn about positive discipline techniques.
What to do if a child tells you he/she is experiencing violence?
- First, listen to the child as openly, calmly and quietly as you can. Don't make promises you can't keep.
- Tell the child that you believe them; that you are glad they told you; that it is not their fault; that you will do your best to find help; and that you may not be able to keep this information a secret. In some countries it is the law to report cases of violence against children to the authorities.
- Then, immediately report the disclosure to local child protection services, or another relevant authority.
- Deepen your students’ understanding of violence against children. And enable them to take action in and around their schools and communities, nationally and globally with UNICEF’s Safe To Learn activity pack.
- Prepare yourself. Review how to teach sensitive topics and what actions to take if a child discloses violence using the Teachers’ Guide (see page 18).
- Promote discussion. Use creativity and multimedia to initiate discussion and provide space for children to develop their own ideas to address violence against children:
> Organize a School Superhero Comic Contest workshop with your students to promote safe school environments.
> Use these UNICEF videos about ‘growing up online’ to engage students in discussions about online safety.
- Nurture attitudes that reject violence and promote non-violent conflict resolution. With help from students, set norms for behaviour in your classroom. Learn and teach conflict resolution and anger management skills. Help your students practice applying them in everyday life.
- Raise awareness. Make sure that children are aware of the school’s policies and that they know what to do if they experience violence. Share details of telephone hotlines or social protection centres if these are available.
- Involve parents. Regularly invite parents to talk with you about their children's progress and any concerns they have. Send home notes celebrating children's achievements.
- Help create a safe school. Offer to serve on a team or committee to develop and implement a plan to make your school safe, including how teachers should respond in emergencies.
Lead by example
Use positive discipline techniques to manage your classroom.