FAWEZI representative Nqobile Nkiwane was invited to the African Youth Development Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. She was part of the moderators during the drafting of the End Violence in Schools youth manifesto on 1 December, 2018. She also coordinated the group discussion on ‘Provide safe School facilities’. Her reflection piece follows:
We may be different as youth from all over the world, but at some points we are united by our interests, aspirations, and even issues. Such was my experience during the drafting of the End Violence in Schools Youth Manifesto, held in Johannesburg, during the African Youth Development Summit, which just ended this past Saturday.
Being one of the moderators, I had a good opportunity to converse up close with youths from different backgrounds and countries, and I noticed that despite their heterogeneous nature, the outcry for safe school environments bound them together. The issue of eliminating violence in schools is a worldwide problem as evidenced by the UNICEF global poll where young people between the ages of 13 and 24 were asked if they had ever felt afraid of violence in and around their schools. UNICEF received more than one million responses representing 160 countries, with 69% answering “yes.”
School-related gender-based violence (SRGBV) is widely spread around the world and is common in many societies. SRGBV can be loosely defined as acts or threats of sexual, physical or psychological violence happening in and around schools. This type of violence is due to gender norms and stereotypes. It can include verbal abuse, bullying, sexual abuse, harassment and other types of violence. Millions of children and families suffer from this type of violence. SRGBV affects every learner in different ways depending on their age, race, gender, sexual orientation, age and social status.
It is against such a background that UNICEF and other partners gathered youth advocates from all over the world and assisted them in drafting an #EndViolence Youth Manifesto. The manifesto drew content from overarching principles, the youth’s commitment, and their demands. The complete #Endviolence Youth Manifesto will be presented to Ministers at The Education World Forum in January 2019. The manifesto is part of a collective effort to #Endviolence in and around schools led by organizations including UNICEF, the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), UNESCO, and others.
Setting aside the technicalities of the manifesto, the overall messages was ‘let us make safe school environments for everyone’. The school is a second home to the learners, teachers, and non-teaching staff. It is the place where they spend most of their time, and it is the place where they are most exposed to being victims, witnesses, or perpetrators of abuse.
This is the reason why the youth present at the drafting of the End Violence Manifesto made a call to the duty bearers, community members, and fellow youths, to prioritise addressing violence in schools. They suggested doing this by providing safe school facilities, sensitising teachers and students on violence, providing protection for every child, and teaching issues of diversity and tolerance, among others.
Eliminating violence in schools will be a step in attaining all the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, but with a specific focus to SDG 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” and SGD5: “Gender Equality”. The elimination of violence in and around schools will increase access, retention, and completion of education amongst leaners at all levels. It is no surprise that the performance of leaners has proved to be much greater when they are exposed to a safe learning environment.
SRGBV will not be eliminated by the presentation of the manifesto alone. This social issue demands collective global efforts. It is everyone’s business. As a youth advocate, and someone who is already working on eliminating SRGBV in schools, I strongly believe that jointed efforts need to be made in laying out a clear picture of what SRGBV is. Communities and individuals need to acknowledge its existence, and understand and identify its effects, if we are going to come up with effective and sustainable solutions.
I am also happy to share that the organisation I work for, the Forum for African Women Educationalist — Zimbabwe chapter (FAWEZI), will be piloting a ‘Whole School Approach Model’ to combat SRGBV. The model is based on guidance published by the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). This whole School Approach Model provides minimum standards to be achieved by schools in order to prevent SRGBV, and a monitoring framework to track progress. It is thus encouraging that I will be engaged in work that responds to the youths’ manifesto. The aim of FAWEZI’s pilot programme is to eliminate SRGBV by having the project schools achieve the eight ‘standards for a violence free school’ identified by UNGEI.
Lastly, I would like to encourage duty bearers, organisations, communities, and individuals to combine efforts in addressing SRGBV, as it affects everyone differently. To the youth I pledge my support in this work as we seek to create a future that will not tolerate SRGBV.