UNICEF launches "#ENDviolence in schools" campaign

UNICEF has launched a new campaign with a clear objective – to "#ENDviolence in schools" – and a strong message – "Don't let violence be an everyday lesson". The problem of violence at school is all the more important given that, according to the report, half of students aged 13 to 15 worldwide – around 150 million – have experienced peer-to-peer violence in and around school.

Major legal texts – the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women – recognise the right for every child to go to school and learn in safety. The Committee on the Rights of the Child specifically states that "children do not lose their human rights by virtue of passing through the school gates". Yet, much remains to be done to guarantee children's safety in schools around the globe.

The report distinguishes four categories of violence in schools: bullying, physical violence, psychological violence, and violence that includes a dimension external to schools, including violence associated with gang culture, weapons and fighting. Sexual violence in schools also appeared to be a reality for many students.

The main findings of the research reveal that:

  • One third of students aged 13 to 15 experience bullying at school.
  • One third of students aged 13 to 15 are involved in physical fights.
  • 396 attacks on schools have been documented and verified in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 67 in the Syrian Arab Republic, 20 in Yemen, and 26 in South Sudan.
  • Nearly 720 million school-aged children live in countries where corporal punishment at school is not fully prohibited.

According to the report, bullying and cyberbullying are generally linked phenomena. It also emphasises the tangible consequences of digitally-perpetrated violence. Victims of cyberbullying are more likely than other students to consume drugs and alcohol, and to skip school. They are also more prone to having low grades, low self-esteem and health problems. Bullying and cyberbullying are driven by a complex interplay of factors:

  • Structural risk factors – Poverty, inequality or the vulnerabilities associated with migration.
  • Institutional risk factors – Lack of teacher training in child development, under-resourced schools.
  • Community risk factors – Codes of silence about violence or cultural taboos.
  • Interpersonal risk factors – Early experiences of violence.
  • Risk factors that increase a child's vulnerability to violence – Disability, extreme poverty, ethnicity, HIV status, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Girls and boys are equally at risk of bullying and cyberbullying, but studies show that boys are more likely to experience physical violence and threats, while girls are more likely to become victims of psychological or relational forms of bullying (for instance, spreading rumours or exclusion).

However, the report also highlights the extraordinary resilience of communities, local authorities, and victims of violence themselves, in coming up with solutions to end violence in schools. It also calls upon decision makers and other stakeholders to #ENDviolence with five recommendations:

  • Implement laws and policies to protect students from violence.
  • Strengthen safety measures in schools.
  • Encourage students and communities to challenge the culture of violence.
  • Raise and invest resources effectively.
  • Generate and share evidence about what works.

Visit the website for the #ENDviolence in schools campaign to see the "First Day Fears" video. For more information, visit the UNICEF website.

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