By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
A report entitled ‘Passing the test’- The real cost of being a student” has revealed that 96 percent of boys and girls in Liberia have experienced at least one form of abuse with 52 percent of students revealing that they have been forced to have sex.
The Liberian research shows that many people think sex between teachers and school girls is quite common and that this is transactional because the teachers will use their position of power to have sex with the students in return for something.
According to the report, 18 percent of school girls and just over 13 percent of school boys reported being asked for sex for better grades and that all of these relationships are abusive given the power differentials and the students’ age terming it as a violation of the Code of Conduct for Liberian teachers and school administrators.
“The wide belief in the prevalence of sex for grades is leading to a lack of faith by students that the marks they receive reflect the quality of their work thus leading to lack of respect for teachers…rather than school being an opportunity to challenge negative behavioral norms, GBV is ignored than school becomes another factor that normalizes abuse of power within relationships,” the report maintained.
In its report on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence in Liberia launched yesterday in Monrovia, Save The Children observed that Gender-Based Violence is not only in schools as the research highlights but that such abuse is normal for Liberian school girls and boys because it carries social attitude in general.
Save The Children said Liberia and its partners have work to do not only at the schools but also at the societal level because such abuse is not only meted out in the educational system rather it is also found in adolescents’ health and child protection cases.
In his presentation of the study, Save The Children Country Director, Ranjan Poudyal, said the report covers four of Liberia’s 15 counties which took almost four years and a succession of staff engagement to reach full completion.
He said the objective of the launch is to spread the message that violence and abuse are happening in various schools which is important to be noted by advocates of child’s rights and policy makers so as to improve the situation and make sure that such tendency does not persist in schools in the country.
The survey which was conducted with some 1,858 students between ages 10-20 years in Bong, Grand Bassa, Grand Gedeh and Montserrado Counties, according to Mr. Poudyal, many consider gender based violence to be inappropriate but there is still a culture of impunity for the perpetrators.
“We believe that when the right people know the issues they can address it and hopefully create awareness among students so that they know that they have the right not to be abused and that there are duty bearers that need to ensure that this does not happen,” he reiterated.
The document was officially launched by the Assistant Minister for Early Learning Childhood Development at the Ministry of Education, Felecia Doe-Somah and the keynote address was delivered by Deputy Minister for Technical Services, Annette Kaiwu who pledged to work collaboratively to ensure that Liberian schools fulfill the educational instruments for the development of the school children.
Madam Kaiwu said one victimized child is a concern for the country and admitted that inspite of the instruments rectified by the Liberian government and other actors; SGBV is still prevalent in the country. This report examines the research undertaken by a consortium of government and non-government agencies working in Liberian schools, commissioned to research School Related Gender Based Violence.
Meanwhile, Liberia has a progressive policy framework aimed at eliminating the marginalization of women and girls in Liberia by 2020. The challenge now remains to ensure that it is effectively implemented.
The report provides information and recommendations for how Liberia can develop safer schools address the gaps between policies and practice, develop and implement comprehensive education and prevention programs, and pursue further research on the experiences of Liberian school children.