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

07 September 2018
Half of world’s teens experience peer violence in and around school – UNICEF
UNICEF/UN0232616/Zehbrauskas
In Villanueva, Honduras, Darwin, 16, sits in the classroom he shared with his friend Henry. Henry committed suicide in September 2016. According to a teacher, the close friends were targeted by bullies. "I was hit very hard," says Darwin, "I still can't get over it."

NEW YORK/HA NOI, 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.

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.

Ms Henrietta Fore continues, “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.

The report also shows that in parts of Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal and Viet Nam where students characterized their schools as unsafe, the most common factors contributing to that assessment were humiliating language, physical fights and harassment from other students. Available data suggest that bullying is the most common type of violence reported in schools. When combined with physical fighting, it is clear that the amount of peer-to-peer violence in schools is alarming.

Analyses of data from Ethiopia, India, Peru and Viet Nam indicate that violence in schools – including physical and verbal abuse by teachers and other students – is the most common reason children say they dislike school. And disliking school was significantly associated with lower scores in mathematics, self-efficacy and self-esteem.

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.
  • 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.
  • Making more effective and targeted investments in proven solutions that help students and schools stay safe.
  • 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.

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

Notes to Editors:

Multimedia assets can be downloaded here.

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

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For more information, please contact:

  • Louis Vigneault-Dubois, UNICEF Việt Nam +84-4-38500241; +84-966539673; email : lvigneault@unicef.org
  • Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hương, UNICEF Việt Nam, 84-4-38500225; +84-904154678; email: ntthuong@unicef.org

Media contacts

Mr Louis Vigneault-Dubois
Chief of Communication and Advocacy
UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel: +84 (024) 3850 0100
Tel: +84 (0)96 6539 673
Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong
Advocacy and Communications Specialist
UNICEF Viet Nam
Tel: +84 (024) 38500225
Tel: +84 (0)904154678

Multimedia content

Endviolence in schools

Additional materials for media

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