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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.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentRESEARCH TEAM
View the documentACRONYMS
View the documentABSTRACT
close this folderEXECUTIVE SUMMARY
View the documentThe context
View the documentFindings
View the documentCauses and consequences
View the documentAction
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
close this folder2. THE RESEARCH CONTEXT
View the document(introduction...)
View the document2.1 The background to each school
View the document2.2 The school setting
View the document2.3 Sexual activity within the school
close this folder3. THE FINDINGS
View the document3.1 Interviews with girls
View the document3.2 Interviews with boys
View the document3.3 Interviews with teachers and head teachers
View the document3.4 Interviews with parents
View the document3.5 Interviews with government officials
close this folder4. DISCUSSION
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View the document4.1 What is the nature and pattern of the abuse of girls in each of these schools?
View the document4.2 To what extent are the perceptions of abuse held by teachers, pupils and other educational personnel at variance with our definition (as given in section 1.1)?
View the document4.3 Who are the abusers, what are their characteristics and their reasons for abusing girls?
View the document4.4 Who are the abused, their characteristics and the consequences of the abuse?
View the document4.5 What is the relationship between the victim and the abuser?
View the document4.6 In what ways does the school environment condone or encourage abuse?
View the document4.7 In what ways do the schools seek to prevent or address explicitly the incidence of abuse?
View the document4.8 What redress is currently practised by the educational and/or judicial system against acts of abuse?
View the document5.1 Workshop findings
close this folder5.2 Strategic actions
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentGirls can
View the documentTeachers can
close this folderSchool management (heads and deputies) can
View the documentSchool culture
View the documentTeaching and training
View the documentEnforcement of rules
View the documentOutside resources
View the documentParental involvement
View the documentThe Ministry of Education (central and regional) can
View the documentTeacher training colleges can
View the documentMinistry initiatives
View the document6. CONCLUDING COMMENTS
View the documentREFERENCES
close this folderAPPENDICES
View the documentAppendix 1: numbers interviewed
close this folderAppendix 2: Tables
View the documentTable 1: January 1999 enrolments in the four schools
View the documentTable 2: Background information on girls
View the documentTable 3: If a schoolgirl gets pregnant......girls' and boys' opinions
View the documentTable 4: If a schoolgirl gets pregnant................. teachers' opinions
View the documentTable 5: If a schoolgirl gets pregnant............ parents' opinions
close this folderAppendix 3: Interview data
close this folderGIRLS' INTERVIEWS
View the documentAbuse by male pupils
close this folderAbuse by teachers
View the documenta. Girls who had been propositioned
View the documentb. Girls who know others whom they suspect of having an affair with a teacher
View the documentc. Evidence that girls sometimes encouraged teachers
View the documentAbuse by older men and 'sugar daddies'
close this folderBOYS' INTERVIEWS
View the documentd. Examples of ways in which boys proposition girls
View the documente. Suggestions that girls sometimes made sexual advances to boys
View the documentAppendix 4 : Teachers' definition of abuse
View the documentAppendix 5: Pupils' Workshops
close this folderAppendix 6: Teachers' Workshops
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentSchool A: 8 teachers
View the documentSchool B: 8 teachers
View the documentSchool C: 10 teachers
View the documentSchool D: 12 teachers


In the co-educational schools, we found much interest in sexual matters and much sex-oriented activity. This was no different from what one would expect in any coeducational secondary school in any country. The interest of the research was to uncover the reasons why male behaviour in and around the school went beyond the acceptable to the abusive, and in so doing turned the school into a hostile and sometimes violent environment for girls. Even in the single-sex school, the girls were not totally protected from abuse, as the report shows.

In the mixed schools, although there were a few girls in the sample who had seemingly happy relationships with boys, all too often sex-oriented activity became abusive. This was because it usually entailed unsolicited and intimidating male behaviour which continually violated the girls' private space and not infrequently led to sexual assault. One set of perpetrators were older male pupils, who would force themselves aggressively on the younger girls' attention, accosting them in the corridors and grounds, entering their classrooms uninvited and waiting for them in gangs after school. They would try to touch them provocatively on the breasts or buttocks. They would also propose to them, sometimes by sending them love letters; if they were turned down, they would threaten the girls, shout abuse intended to demean and humiliate them, and sometimes beat them. Money played an important part in these demonstrations of male sexuality: they gave small gifts of money to girls or bought them snacks, in an attempt to bribe them into a sexual liaison The second set of perpetrators were male teachers who would abuse their position of trust and authority to make sexual advances towards female pupils and attempt to lure them into sexual relationships. This was widespread in the co-educational schools studied, with advances made to young pupils in Form 1 as well as (more commonly) to the older girls in the upper forms. Teachers would pursue their prey often quite openly during classes, which suggests they had little fear of being exposed. Teachers, like sugar daddies, used money and gifts as well as insincere promises of marriage to entice girls.

Pupils and teachers alike appeared to see such behaviour, whether by male teachers or male pupils, as an inevitable and 'natural' part of school life. Like bullying in general, it was an institutionalised feature of the school culture. This was not surprising given that the pattern of male behaviour was little different to that found in the domestic and public domains. For the majority of girls it was an unwanted part of their daily lives but, as it was regarded as routine, nobody sought to change it.

This behaviour was abusive because it exploited the difference of power between the perpetrator (whether male pupil or teacher) and the victim. Even where it was of a relatively mild form, the fact that nobody sought to control and punish it meant that it had the potential to rapidly become serious abuse. Most importantly, the fact that male teachers pursued sexual liaisons with girls with impunity passed on the message to boys that such behaviour was acceptable. It made them not only bolder and more aggressive in their behaviour towards girls but also increased their contempt for them.

Male pupils and teachers crowding in on girls' private space and exploiting their position of strength to coerce them into sexual liaisons is a manifestation of the school as a site of sexual violence for girls. Verbal abuse, which was used by almost all teachers, male and female, and corporal punishment, which was widespread in the mixed schools (and used on girls and boys), were further manifestations of school-based violence. Girls were beaten almost as much as boys, despite it being banned in the case of girls. There was evidence that verbal abuse was used more frequently towards girls and was specifically designed to denigrate and humiliate the female sex. In the all-girls' school, verbal abuse was common (as if to compensate for the ban on corporal punishment, which was strictly enforced there) and there was some indication that a few male teachers might also behave inappropriately towards girls.

Abuse in schools reflected abuse and violence in the home. It was clear that a few girls were at risk of, or had experienced, sexual abuse by relatives or neighbours but more common were beatings, excessive domestic labour demands, neglect (lack of love, attention and respect) and verbal abuse. One consequence of ill-treatment at home is that girls may be more responsive to some boys' or adult men's attention out of unhappiness or fear, and hence vulnerable to exploitation.

Girls were also exposed to abuse in the proximity of the school. Male strangers would proposition or sometimes assault them at bus stops and in market places, on the road to and from school, and while travelling on public transport. Sugar daddies were known to frequent the area near the schools. Girls in the single-sex school were also exposed to such abusive behaviour; indeed, the location of the school in the town centre made them particularly at risk.

It was difficult to obtain a true picture of how abusive sexual relationships developed and to determine whether girls entered freely into them or were coerced. We found that the distinction between an abusive and a consensual relationship was often blurred. It was clear that not all the girls were passive victims of unsolicited male attention and that some responded positively to advances by older boys and even by teachers and sugar daddies. In fact a surprisingly high number of girls were reported to have sugar daddies. What appeared to be most likely was that girls would accept small gifts and money from older boys and men, sometimes out of necessity, not realising that this would be used at a later date to coerce them into having sex. In all these cases, the relationship has to be condemned as abusive because the girl, whether coerced or consenting, is being lured into an exploitative relationship.