An investigative study of the abuse of girls in African schools


This report presents the findings of an extension to an earlier research study carried out into the abuse of girls in junior secondary schools in Zimbabwe (Leach and Machakanja 2000). This earlier study found that girls were subjected on a routine basis to aggressive sexual advances from older male pupils and male teachers within the school and from 'sugar daddies' in the vicinity of the school, who prey on girls for sex in exchange for money or gifts. Other forms of abuse directed at both female and male pupils were verbal abuse (often with demeaning sexual connotations when directed at girls) and excessive corporal punishment, administered by female as well as male teachers.

This extension had the combined aim of taking the Zimbabwe research further as well as attempting to bridge the gap between research and action in addressing this abuse of children's rights. This aim was achieved through three distinct components: firstly, information gathering and dissemination of studies on the abuse of girls and related topics through both print and electronic modes; secondly, further school-based research to assess the prevalence of abuse in two other African contexts (Ghana and Malawi) with a slightly younger age group (most girls were in the 11-14 age group); and thirdly, the trialling of a range of small scale strategic interventions to counter the types of abuse uncovered by the research.

The introductory chapter in this report (Chapter 1) presents the context, rationale and methodology of the study. Chapter 2 summarises the process of information gathering and dissemination of work relevant to the study of the abuse of girls. The second component of the study (further research into the abuse of girls in Ghana and Malawi) is covered by the first part of Chapters 3 and 4, where the findings from the field work component in three schools in each country are presented. The third component of the study is covered in the second part of Chapters 3 and 4, and in Chapter 5, which provides an account of the dissemination and trialling of strategies in Zimbabwe. Chapter 6, discusses the impact of the research, and recommendations.


Educational Paper No. 54, DFID, London, UK, ISBN 1 86192 5751,174 pp.

An investigative study of the abuse of girls in African schools

Published 1 January 2003