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close this bookPreliminary Investigation of the Abuse of Girls in Zimbabwean Junior Secondary Schools - Education research paper No. 39 (DFID, 2000, 100 p.)
close this folderEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
View the documentThe context
View the documentFindings
View the documentCauses and consequences
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The context

The research discussed in this report addresses school-based abuse of adolescent girls. The purpose of the study was to investigate the nature and pattern of abuse of girls in a number of schools in Zimbabwe, examine ways in which the schools addressed the issue of abuse, and recommend strategies for confronting and reducing its incidence. The research was carried out in three co-educational junior secondary schools and one all-girls' secondary school in one region of Zimbabwe during 1998-1999. Two of the schools were located in a rural setting, one in a peri-urban area and the fourth in an urban centre. In-depth interviews were held with 112 girls mostly aged 13-15 in Forms 1-3, supplemented by interviews with boys, teachers and head teachers, parents and some government officials.

Abuse is a difficult area to research because it is associated with sexual abuse, a taboo topic which most people would prefer to ignore. Nevertheless, there has been for some time increasing acknowledgement in many countries around the world that serious abuse of children exists in the home, the community and the labour market. Abuse in the school is less recognised and, in sub-Saharan Africa, is only just being exposed and talked about openly. Little as yet has been done to stamp it out.

Both sexual and non-sexual forms of school-based abuse were included in the study. Sexual abuse was any kind of abuse which had a sexual dimension, e.g. physical, verbal, psychological or emotional. Non-sexual abuse in the context of this study took the form of corporal punishment, which, although banned in Zimbabwe except in clearly specified situations, is widely used, on girls as well as boys, and by female teachers as well as male. The two types of abuse are linked, for an environment which tolerates the illegal use of corporal punishment is one which is likely to be equally permissive of other forms of violence, including sexual abuse.

Although the focus of the study was on school-based abuse, we did not wish to isolate it from its broader context - that of the gendered society. Alongside abuse by male teachers and pupils, we therefore included abuse experienced by girls in the proximity of the school, e.g. on their way to and from school, usually by older men known as 'sugar daddies' who seek to lure girls into sexual relationships with money or gifts.