24 June 2019 ¦ GENEVA / KAMPALA Each year up to 1 billion children experience some form of physical, sexual or psychological violence or neglect. Being a victim of violence in childhood can damage children’s physical and mental health and affect their whole lives. A new resource - School-based violence prevention: a practical handbook – recognizes the potential of schools as an important setting for facilitating violence prevention efforts.
Data from the WHO Global school-based student health survey indicates that 34% of school children reported being bullied in the previous month while 40% reported being in a physical fight in the past year. School children are also exposed to other forms of violence in educational settings, including cyber-bullying and corporal punishment, and in their homes and communities, including child maltreatment, dating and intimate partner violence, gang violence and elder abuse. Beyond the harm to their health and well-being, children who have experienced any form of violence in childhood are less likely to graduate and more likely to be absent from school and show lower academic achievement.
“Schools are well placed to address violence,” notes Dr Etienne Krug, WHO Director of the Department for the Management of Noncommunicable Diseases, Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention. “Not only do they offer education and other activities that are themselves powerful protection against violence, but they also help shape attitudes about the acceptability of violence, alcohol and drug use, the carrying of weapons and other risks. Likewise, preventing violence in the broader society is of direct benefit to schools as they are better able to educate children, foster lifelong learning and empower students to be responsible global citizens”.
School-based violence prevention: a practical handbook, developed by WHO with contributions from UNESCO and UNICEF, outlines important steps that schools can take to implement an evidence-based, whole-school approach to violence prevention. The document is written in plain English and is accessible to various audiences including teachers, school administrators and staff within Ministries of Education.
The handbook provides practical information on how to:
Train teachers in positive discipline to reduce the use of corporal punishment;
Include life and social skills training in the school curriculum to help children practice how to form positive relationships and solve conflicts constructively;
Involve parents and the community to strengthen parenting skills and support children’s learning;
Teach social and gender norms that can help to prevent violence such as intimate partner violence and elder abuse later in life;
Respond to violence focusing on rehabilitation and correcting inappropriate behaviours.
The handbook provides in-depth information that helps to implement the technical package INSPIRE: seven strategies for ending violence against children, in particular focusing on interventions that can be delivered in educational settings. If implemented, the handbook will contribute much to helping achieve the Sustainable Development Goals linked to preventing violence and promoting education, targets 4.a, 5.1 and 16.2 specifically.