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Fast facts

50-100% higher

Mortality of children under five in families in the poorest wealth quintile, compared to the richest.

Conversation with Sascha Graumann, UNICEF Representative on Addressing Violence against Children in Educational Institutions

Print version
06 September 2018
-    Mr. Graumann, could you please tell us your views and UNICEF’s position on the issue of violence against children in educational institutions?

-    Globally, across various settings, one child dies every five minutes as a result of violence. There are many other children who live with the trauma of physical, sexual and psychological violence, from beatings to bullying. It’s so common that it sometimes feels that it’s inevitable. But it’s not. Violence against children is preventable. And because we can prevent it, we must.

No child should be afraid to go to school. And yet, for far too many students around the world, school is a dangerous place. Let me share with you some statistics and facts.

•    According to a UNICEF study, globally half of students aged between 13 to 15, that’s about 150 million children – have experienced peer-to-peer violence in and around their school.

•    More than one in every three of these students aged 13 to 15 have experienced bullying and have been involved in physical fights.

•    Nearly 750 million school-aged children live in countries where corporal punishment, at school is not fully prohibited. That means that many teachers are still smacking, caning or beating the children in their care.

Education is the key to building peaceful societies, and yet, for millions of children around the world, school itself is not safe. Violence affects students’ wellbeing and their ability to learn and succeed. It decreases their self-esteem, reduces attendance, lowers grades and leads many children to drop out of school altogether. Violence also undermines investments in health, early childhood development and education. It impedes economic growth.

Ending violence in schools allows children to flourish, socially and educationally. So, it’s time to act. Classroom by classroom, school by school, country by country, we can end violence in educational institutions.

-    Why does bullying happen in school? What long term damage does it cause?

Students are often targeted because of who they are or where they live. Children can be bullied for all sorts of reasons - whether it is due to a disability, to poverty, to their ethnicity or gender. Children who live in institutional care are even more vulnerable.

The cost of inaction is unacceptably high – for children, their families and communities, and for society as a whole.

We know that the stress associated with violence in early childhood can cause serious damage to brain development and the nervous system.

Secondly, this negative experience can have a long-lasting affect, and these children can themselves become perpetrators or victims later in life.

Globally, the cost of violence against children adds up to 7 trillion dollars a year,  which undermines important investments in children’s development.

And most importantly, as I mentioned earlier – it affects children’s self-esteem, reduces attendance, lowers grades and leads to them dropping out of school.

-    What does UNICEF recommend to make schools safe in Uzbekistan?

-    In Uzbekistan, the challenge is that there is no reliable public data on abuse, violence and neglect. There is also no systematic means of identifying and supporting children at risk, who have experienced violence.

Strengthening how child protection data is collected and analyzed is critical for the development and improvement of laws, policy and regulations to protect children

Recently, the media have highlighted a number of cases, such as the one at the orphanage in Margilan, and another incident in Namangan region. There were also media reports and public discussion on social media about violence in the correctional-educational school in Samarkand.

It is encouraging that the Government of Uzbekistan has responded to cases when children have suffered from violence in educational institutions. However, the country can achieve better results when adequate measures are taken to prevent violence.

-    Mr. Graumann, how does UNICEF support the Government in addressing the issue of violence against children in Uzbekistan?

-    UNICEF has been working closely with the Government of Uzbekistan to address the issue of violence against children in various ways.

As I mentioned, the collection and analysis of child protection data is critical to identifying the causes of violence. If decision makers, service providers, families and society understand the drivers of violence it will be easier to prevent it, and to better protect children.
In this regard, UNICEF will be supporting the Government to collect data for a survey called the Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey or MICS. We will work with the Government to include information related to violence, abuse and neglect at home to help them make decisions to better protect children.

In addition, in 2013, the Committee on the Rights of the Child observed that Uzbekistan needs to establish an effective system for reporting violence against children; and have professionals to identify, investigate and address cases of violence. UNICEF is working with the Government to develop a plan of action to address the Committee’s recommendation, including the prevention of violence in education institutions.

To address the issues of violence in educational settings, social workers are also critical. Cases of child abuse at school and in residential care institutions could be prevented if there were social workers who could identify violence in time and take appropriate measures to help.  

Last year, Uzbekistan conducted an assessment of the child protection system in the country. It revealed there are some good measures in place, but these functions are scattered over range of different ministries and agencies. We are proposing to the Government that they consolidate these functions into one entity and develop an action plan that will put into place the right policies to protect children from violence, no matter what the setting.

Currently, UNICEF is working with the Government to promote the social work profession in different places where children need safety and security.

We are pleased to note that the Government is discussing the draft of the law for countering domestic violence in Uzbekistan. This is extremely important because unfortunately children often experience physical, sexual and emotional violence at home.

In addition to better protecting children at home, we must also work to make schools a safe place, free from violence. Around the world children experience many forms of violence at school including physical attacks, fighting and bullying.

In this regard, we are working closely with the Government in drafting revisions to the Law on Education. One of our recommendations is to include into the revised law requirements for creating a safe school environment for all children.

While working on the school curriculum, we are proposing that the Government include critical life-skills for students and teachers, skills that include conflict management. This will empower children and teachers to prevent, manage and monitor such instances.

Soon, UNICEF will roll out U-Report in Uzbekistan to enhance the participation of young people in the issues that affect them. This is an SMS based platform that asks young people for their opinions about their situation.

U-report can provide a safe space and platform for children and young people to voice their opinions and concerns, and to contribute to the decisions that will influence their lives.

I would like to reiterate that UNICEF is committed to working closely with the Government and all our partners – including families, communities and young people themselves – to prevent and respond to cases of violence against children in all settings.

-    What would be your recommendations for people involved in prevention and combating violence in educational institutions?

-    Ending violence in educational institutions takes a huge effort from all of us, including families, teachers and young people themselves. Therefore, I would like to call upon students, teachers and parents to unite efforts to make the country’s educational institutions free of any forms of violence.

My appeal to students is – don’t be quiet if you are a victim or witness of bullying or peer violence. Speak up. Find the person you trust to listen to you, and support you with advice or action. Become the advocate for change, and help ending the cycle of violence in your school and community.    

For teachers, my call is – empower your students to speak up on any incident of violence they experience or witness, build trusting relationships with them, and educate them in a way that they do not tolerate any forms of violence against themselves or others around them.    

Finally, I call upon parents – trust your child, listen to your child and seek ways to support your child in a difficult situation. Remember that all forms of violence – whether physical, emotional, psychological or verbal are harmful for your child, and hamper their emotional, psychological and physical development.  





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UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

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