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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 folder1. INTRODUCTION
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1.1 The research study
View the document1.2 Definition and scope of abuse in this study


Since 1990, as part of the drive for universal primary education, there has been a considerable international effort to get more girls into school. Girls constitute two-thirds of all out-of-school children (UNESCO 1998). The need to develop specific strategies to address the problem of girls' under-enrolment, as opposed to merely seeking to increase the total number of school places available, has spawned a number of studies around girls' education. However, most of this research has concentrated on the economic, social and cultural barriers to girls' schooling, in other words barriers external to the school (e.g. Colclough et al 1998, King and Hill 1993, Brock and Cammish 1997). It is only recently that studies examining the gendered structure of schooling have been carried out (Anderson-Levitt 1998, Kutnick 1998, Stephens 1998, Gordon 1993; see also Odaja and Heneveld 1995). In these, some attention has been given to the role that informal school practices and teachers' attitudes play in perpetuating sex differentiation and discouraging girls (and sometimes boys) from attending. It is now recognised that the way in which schooling is organised and delivered sends subtle but powerful daily messages to pupils about the gender roles they can expect to play in adult life. In the majority of cases, these messages underscore the authority and superiority of males and implicitly endorse gender-differentiated roles which reinforce girls' negative self-perceptions and limit their expectations. Although governments and donors have expressed concern over the low academic achievement of girls in many countries, they have been slow to acknowledge the link between this low achievement, the school culture, and low self-esteem and expectations of women and girls.

Within these studies, one aspect of the reality of school life for girls which may affect both their attendance and their achievement has been almost totally ignored. That is the existence of a school culture which tolerates abusive behaviour and violence towards girls. Very little is known about why and under what circumstances abuse in schools takes place and internationally accessible studies which seek to address this issue are few: examples are Gordon (1993), Gouws (1997), Hallam (1994). Given the commitments made by governments world wide under the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is crucial that the reality behind this abuse be exposed and its causes addressed.