Safe Schools and Learning Environment: How to Prevent and Respond to Violence in Refugee Schools

Friday, June 1, 2007
Peacewomen Comment: 

This resource was submitted as part of the 1325+10 PeaceWomen initiative to compile a repository of papers dealing with a broad range of issues around the implementation of 1325, as part of the Women, Peace and Security: From Resolution to Action Geneva High-Level Consultation 15-16 September 2010, Geneva.

School is not always a safe place for a refugee child; quite often, it is at school that he or she is abused or exploited. The nature of violence inflicted on children in learning environments can be emotional, physical and psychological, and range from the subtle to the very explicit. All too frequently it is sexual and gender-based.

Without adequate monitoring, reporting and referral mechanisms, children in schools often face severe corporal punishment, peer-to-peer violence and sexual harassment or exploitation. The perpetrators could include teachers, other authority figures and the staff of international organizations and non-government organizations. The risk of exploitation and abuse is higher at the upper-primary and secondary levels, when children reach adolescence. Girls are especially vulnerable at this stage, and may be forced to engage in so-called survival sex to cover school costs and stay on good terms with their teachers.

Schools and teachers are highly influential in a child's life, and have a lasting impact on attitudes and behaviour. As such, unsafe learning environments contribute to the perpetuation of violence within communities.

To be effective, a strategy for the protection of children must guarantee that their learning environments are safe and secure. Within its protection mandate, UNHCR plays a key role in keeping learning environments free of violence.

Document PDF: