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08.10.2008 Education

Sex For Grades • International Children's NGO Reveals

Girls as young as 10 are being forced by their teachers to have sex with them in order to pass their examinations.

They are threatened with poor grades and failures if they refuse, according to a groundbreaking report on school violence published by Plan, an international children's non-governmental organisation (NGO).

The report forms part of Plan's "Learn Without Fear" campaign, designed to end all forms of violence against children in schools. It shows that sexual violence is institutionalised in many schools throughout Africa with many teachers ruthlessly exploiting pupils by demanding sex.

The report, the most comprehensive global examination of school violence yet, focuses on three major areas namely sexual violence, rape for grades; corporal punishment— beatings, kicking, humiliation and bullying.

Girls are more likely to be victims of sexual violence, while boys bear the brunt of corporal punishment. These were contained in a press release, issued by the Plan Press Office.

According to the release, victims of violence in schools are more likely to commit suicide than their classmates. Many die as a direct result of their injuries, or as a consequence of the violence, such as pregnancy complications or AIDS and bullied girls are eight times more likely to be suicidal than their peers.

Most victims are too scared, ashamed, or traumatised to speak out and school authorities are often unwilling to investigate accusations.

The problem is not just confined to Africa. The release also reveals shocking evidence of sexual abuse in Latin America and Asia.

In many places, the issue was compounded by cultural attitudes towards women and girls, which made it extremely difficult for victims to resist their attackers or get justice.

Rosemary, 17, from Tanzania, became pregnant when forced into sex by her teacher and now has a baby. Rosemary said her teacher called her to his office and made love to her, stressing that they sometimes went out of the school until she got pregnant.

Now she cannot see what the future holds for her and life is so difficult and so wonders how she would be able to support her child to grow and how she could provide his necessities. “I need to be helped so that I can go on with studies," she stated.

Sexual assault is just one form of violence in schools which affects millions of children throughout the world. The release said, more than 350 million children fall victim to some form of violence in school.

The sheer scale of the problem does not only affect the individual's personality, mental and physical health, and future potential, but also has a knock-on effect on their families, communities and national economies, the report adds.

Violence in school, the release indicates, ruins the one real chance of a better and more prosperous life for many children, and denies the communities and countries of vital national assets.

All this, according to the release, is going on everyday and everywhere in schools which are supposed to nurture and protect them.

The release stated that about one million children suffer violence everyday.

It also notes that 90 countries continue to allow teachers to legally use corporal punishment, while laws in countries that do ban it are often poorly enforced and although teachers use corporal punishment in the name of discipline, in the long run, it makes pupils more violent and not less violent.

Bullying was mentioned as a serious problem in all countries — up to two-thirds of students identified themselves as victims in any month.

Bullying at school was the cause of violence in the wider society with both bullies and their victims likely to be more violent as adults than other children in their class.

The Chief Executive Officer of Plan, Mr Tom Miller, said "This report presents shocking and irrefutable evidence that children across the globe are regularly, sexually and physically abused by the very adults who have a duty to protect them. Violence in schools was too often viewed as acceptable or necessary by education authorities, parents and governments”.

He said the evidence uncovered showed it caused lasting mental and physical suffering and was an outrageous violation of their fundamental rights. “Education is supposed to unlock the potential of children and not to condemn them to uncertain and vulnerable future.

"We all have a role, whether as individuals, governments or NGOs, to make sure that children can go to school without fear or threat of violence and receive quality education in a safe and secure environment. Learn Without Fear" may be Plan's campaign, but it's everyone's responsibility. Ending violence in schools is all our interest."

Plan will embark on a three-year campaign, which will begin with four regional launches in Bangkok, Thailand; Nairobi, Kenya; Dakar, Senegal; and Cartagena, Colombia, with additional spokespersons in London and other European capitals.

During the campaign period, Plan will work directly with at least 5,000 schools in 40 countries to tackle violence. The campaign seeks, among others, to persuade governments to outlaw all forms of violence against children in school, including corporal punishment, and create a global momentum for change, including increased resources from international donors and governments, to tackle violence in schools in developing countries.

Plan works with more than 3.5 million families each year throughout Africa, Asia and Latin America and is committed to working with local communities to strengthen children's rights.