This study found that the abuse of girls in the co-educational schools
where the research took place was widespread and took the form of
aggressive sexual behaviour, intimidation and physical assault by older
boys; sexual advances by male teachers; and corporal punishment and
verbal abuse by both female and male teachers (on boys as well as
girls). Younger girls in particular were fearful of male sexual advances
or intimidation. An unsettling and sometimes violent environment is
neither conducive to girls' learning nor to their forming mature
relations with boys (with implications for the spread of HIV/AIDS among
adolescents). Girls in the single-sex school were not protected from
sexual advances outside the school.
Male sexual aggression in schools appears to be institutionalised and
considered as 'normal'. Girls respond on the whole with resignation
and passivity. Schools are themselves complicit in the abuse in that
they fail to discipline perpetrators (whether pupils or teachers), deny
that abuse exists and foster an authoritarian culture where the
behaviour of teachers cannot be questioned. School-based abuse is a
reflection of abuse found elsewhere - in the home and the community.
'Sugar daddies' in particular seek to lure girls into sexual relations
with gifts and money. This widespread abuse goes unchecked because of
the low status accorded women by society, where men invade women's
private space with impunity and girls are socialised to expect
subordination to men in adult life. Lack of will to address the issue by
government bodies helps to perpetuate and condone it.
Eliminating abuse will require a significant change in school culture,
and in the attitudes and behaviour of teachers, school heads, Ministry
officials, parents and pupils, both boys and girls.
Educational Paper No. 39, DFID, London, UK, ISBN 1 86192 279 5, 100 pp.
Preliminary investigation of the abuse of girls in Zimbabwean junior secondary schools