For far too many students around the world, school is a dangerous place. We asked young people about their experiences with violence in and around schools – and what they feel needs to be done to stop it.
The response was overwhelming, with more than a million young people having their say. More than 2 in 3 young people said they worry about violence in and around schools. But they also have ideas on what students, parents, teachers and governments can do to help make schools safer.
We brought more than 100 young people from around the world together to craft a youth manifesto for ending violence in schools. Here’s how they want to fix the problem:
Diversity and tolerance
Equality is the foundation of promoting diversity and tolerance in schools. Equality should be taught and demonstrated at home and reinforced in schools. We must recognize that we are all equal. Our differences, including culture, gender, identity, disability, sexual orientation, nationality, race, ethnicity, migration status, and religion make us unique and should be celebrated rather than divide us. Our curricula, teachers, society, media, and institutions like government, bear a responsibility to promote, practice, teach and ensure that schools are a safe and inclusive space for everyone. They have a responsibility to remove and prevent stigma that holds us back from equality in the classroom and in the world.
Protection for all students
In keeping with the principle of peaceful, respectful coexistence, and as institutions through which change can be made, schools, in collaboration with parents, peers and society at large, must care for, support and protect all students – those who experience violence and those who engage in violent behaviour.
We commit to being respectful and careful in how we treat our community and to speak up when it is safe to do so. Kindness is a responsibility that begins with each of us.
We commit to breaking taboos and the victimization around reporting violence. We will seek out trusted authorities such as teachers, counsellors, community representatives and other students when we witness or learn of violence in and around school. We also commit to creating youth-led channels for reporting violence.
We commit to start and support initiatives that will promote unity, curiosity, and mutual respect at home, in school, and in our communities – including online. We will protect each other and have each other’s backs. [#I’veGotYourBack]
Take us seriously
We demand that our parents, guardians, schools as institutions, policymakers, and communities recognize our essence of being, our equality, our right to dignity, our right to exist in harmony in environments that are free of violence in all its forms. We demand that where violence may exist it must be addressed with the required urgency, without placing the burden on the child.
Establish clear rules
We demand the protection and prevention of all forms and levels of violence in schools, which should be governed by clear rules, regulations, and action plans to enable reform and recourse for a safe learning environment for all.
Make laws restricting weapons
We demand that policymakers pass and implement laws restricting the presence and use of any objects as weapons in schools, including but not limited to guns and knives.
Ensure our safety to and from school
We demand safety on our journey to and from school. We don’t want anyone to harm us in any way. We also demand to be protected by the law and punishment for the lawbreakers.
Provide secure school facilities
We demand safe learning environments, including buildings and grounds, playing fields, and fixed equipment. We want hallways, classrooms, and bathrooms with gender neutral options to be adequately lit. We expect security measures like gates, cameras, and properly trained security personnel where appropriate. School staff and students need instruction about what to do in the case of an emergency.
Train teachers and counsellors
We demand that teachers and counsellors undertake on-going training and be able to identify, respond to, support and refer learners who are affected by issues of school-based violence to appropriate services. Training should equip teachers and counsellors to be emotionally intelligent, to deal with inclusivity and diversity issues and to provide positive discipline for all children.
Teach consent and respond to sexual violence
We demand that all schools teach all students, regardless of age, gender identity, sex, disability, religion, race and sexual orientation, to respect one another’s physical and sexual boundaries. All schools must provide accessible and reliable means of reporting cases of sexual harassment and assault (be it physical, psychological, emotional and/or verbal) as enshrined within school governing documents/policies, which must be inclusive.
The manifesto will be presented to ministers at the Education World Forum in January 2019. The event – hosted by UNICEF, Global Citizen, JCI and the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and with participation of Department for International Development and United Nations Girls Education Initiative, ahead of the Global Citizen Mandela 100 Festival – is part of UNICEF’s global #ENDviolence campaign.