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

13 September 2018
A girl stands in front of a fence
UNICEF/UN014940/Estey

BANGKOK – 13 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.

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.

In Thailand, the School-based Student Health Survey conducted by Department of Health in 2015 showed that 29% of students aged 13 to 15 years reported being bullied in the past month, and 26% were involved in a physical fight at least once in the past year.

“Children spend around a third of their day, five days a week in school. When children enter those school gates each day, it is our responsibility to make sure that they are safe,” said Thomas Davin, UNICEF Thailand Representative. “But sadly, we repeatedly see news reports about incidents of violence against children in Thai schools, sometimes at the hands of teachers whom we expected to protect them.”

UNICEF Thailand is currently working with the Office of Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education, to strengthen the capacity of schools and education personnel to address issues of bullying and violence in schools.

“We need to make sure that every school is committed to implementing the Child Protection Policy, to strengthen measures that would prevent violence and respond effectively if it happens,” Davin added. “Most of all, we urge the school community, including principals, teachers, parents, and students themselves to challenge the culture of violence in classrooms and communities. Everyone must stand up and speak up to protect the well-being of our children.”

Media Contacts

Kongdej Keesukpan

Communication Specialist

UNICEF Thailand Country Office

Tel: +66 82 077 2233

Napat Phisanbut

Communication for Development Officer

UNICEF Thailand

Tel: +66 81 498 9333

Multimedia content

A boy sitting at the fence
Wednesday 24th September.Centro Escolar Confederacion Suiza, a school in Los Planes de Renderos, city of San Salvador, El Salvador. The school has a Violence Prevention Committee and pupils benefit from a range of activities to help them understand and address the violence they encounter in daily life. Here, a boy sits apart from the main event while the rest of the school has gathered to watch a play performed by a visiting acting troupe. He had left the group and a teacher approached to ask what was wrong. He said he hadn't been able to get anything to eat that morning and that now he felt tired and upset.

Download the report An Everyday Lesson - #ENDviolence in Schools here

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