New data on violence in schools and effective preventative measures

26 October 2017

A special issue of the Journal of Psychology, Health and Medicine (January 2017), commissioned by the Global Learning Initiative: Know Violence in Childhood, offers data on school violence and effective preventative measures. Six articles in the journal describe the nature of school violence and bullying, and provide information on effective interventions in several countries, including Uganda and Viet Nam.

Types of school violence and bullying

Bullying is one of the most common expressions of school violence committed by peers. Large-scale surveys carried out in Western countries suggest that 9-25% of school age children are bullied (Menesini & Salmivalli, 2017).

Another prevalent type of school violence is corporal punishment, which is perpetrated by teachers on students. It continues to be a legal means of disciplining children in 69 countries. Boys were found more likely than girls to experience school corporal punishment: the prevalence between boys vs. girls was 44% vs. 31% in Ethiopia; 83% vs. 73% in India; 35% vs. 26% in Peru; and 28% vs. 11% in Vietnam (See Figure 1). In both Singapore and Zimbabwe, this type of gender discrimination is written into law; only boys can be subject to school corporal punishment in these countries (Gershoff, 2017).

Violence has a tendency to ‘spill’ from one environment to the other - also referred to as poly-victimization. For instance, according to a study in Uganda, girls who experience sexual abuse in schools are likely to also experience such violence in the streets (Kumar et al., 2017).

Preventing violence and bullying

Cognitive behavioural, social-emotional and peer mentoring/mediation programmes have been found to be some of the most promising approaches in reducing the levels of perpetration of peer aggression (Lester et al., 2017).

Various school-based initiatives such as the Good School Toolkit in Uganda involve activities that focus on creating safe school environments for children, such as hanging codes of conduct in visible places and facilitating conversations. For instance, after an 18-month intervention, Ugandan students reported a decrease in physical violence against children by school staff by 42% in primary schools (Lilleston et al., 2017). A study in Viet Nam revealed that bullying is strongly correlated with the quality of the school environment. Students who experience less teacher support were more likely to be victims and bullies (Le et al., 2017). Bullying, along with all other forms of child violence, is also highly influenced by social norms (Lilleston et al., 2017). Corporal punishment in schools should be addressed through legislative reform and advocacy (Gershoff, 2017).