National Dialogue on Violence Against Children in Schools
Attributable to Dr. Doreen Mulenga, UNICEF Representative in Uganda
It gives me great pleasure today to address this National Dialogue on the very important subject of Violence Against Children in Schools.
Children spend more time in school than they do elsewhere outside their home. Like parents, therefore, the adults who manage these institutions have an obligation to provide a caring and safe environment for all learners.
Every child has the right to freedom from all forms of violence. This is not just common sense and basic morality; it is also an international legal obligation, articulated in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Specifically, the Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it obligatory for governments to ensure that:
• Discipline in school is administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity;
• The child is protected against “all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse”; and that
• All children are protected from “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
However, despite having a relatively strong legal framework in Uganda, violence against children in schools remains widespread in the country. It is normalised in most schools and communities. There are still ill-informed views about the role of corporal punishment in correcting children’s behaviour. The saddest part is the existence of sexual violence in schools.
In a 2012 study conducted by the Ministry of Education and Sports, 81 per cent of the children interviewed reported having experienced various forms of violence. 78 per cent of primary, and 82 per cent of secondary school students reported having been subjected to some form of sexual violence. 68 per cent of the children cited teachers as the main perpetrators of violence, while girls are the main victims.
Addressing an issue as complex as Violence Against Children requires a broad coalition of actors at all levels. UNICEF has, therefore, collaborated with the Government of Uganda, Civil Society and other Development Partners to address the challenge of Violence Against Children through a multi-sectoral approach that was developed to harmonise interventions across sectors. Besides our work with the Education Sector, we also support the Social Welfare, Health and Justice Sectors to respond with child-friendly and timely services.
Even then, incidents of violence against children are reported almost every day. There is an urgent need to accelerate our progress in addressing the challenge of Violence Against Children. Prevention is critical, but it is equally important to ensure that perpetrators of Violence Against Children, be they teachers or others, are held to account for their crimes.
As I conclude, I would like to reiterate UNICEF’s commitment to work with the Government of Uganda, Civil Society, other development partners and all stakeholders represented at this National Dialogue to support activities that address negative social norms to curb Violence Against Children in Schools. We will also continue to advocate and support the strengthening of school- and community-based protection systems that provide multi-sectoral prevention and response services for all children who experience any form of violence.
I thank you.
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 and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/uganda