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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
View the document(introduction...)
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

Causes and consequences

The school-based abuse of girls is clearly related to the low socio-economic status of women in society. In Zimbabwe, as in much of Africa, men often view women as their property and expect them to serve and obey. The boys in the school were fulfilling the role into which they were being socialised by aggressively demanding the girls' attention and sexual favours, and being ready to pay for them. There was consensus among both girls and boys (the latter with much condemnation) that girls entered sexual relationships with adult men primarily for money. However, while being condemned for this, the girls were also anticipating their future role as adult women in a society which teaches them to look to men for physical, financial and moral support. The girls themselves were aware of their low status and it manifested itself in their own low self-esteem and passive acceptance of male aggression. Very few girls took direct action when harassed or physically assaulted, partly from fear of further violence and reprisals but also from resignation, an acceptance that this was how things were, and a desire not to draw attention to oneself. They also saw themselves as responsible for their own problems and mistakes because they were female. Along with the boys, parents and teachers interviewed, they saw girls who dropped out of school or were expelled as a result of pregnancy, as having alone brought this misfortune upon themselves.

The study found that, in a society where women are expected to be financially dependent on men, family poverty made girls particularly vulnerable to abuse. Many girls in the sample said that their family was unable to provide them with enough money to pay for school fees, bus fares, lunches and books. The peer culture aggravated the situation because not only did girls need money for basic necessities, they also wanted to be seen to have pocket money to spend. The school reproduced the materialistic world outside by allowing the sale of snacks and drinks during break times and vendors also sold at the school gates. Those who were able to afford such items were admired or envied, and in this situation girls could easily be tempted to accept money or snacks from male pupils, teachers or sugar daddies, thus drawing themselves unwittingly into a relationship of obligation and dependence.

Alongside poverty and peer pressure, there was evidence that the break up of the traditional family, which was widespread (whether as a result of AIDS-related death, divorce, separation or migration), also made girls more vulnerable to abuse. It was striking that over half the girls in this sample were not living with both biological parents and a quarter were not living with either biological parent. Girls were said to be more affected than boys by such break ups and they were clearly more vulnerable than boys, as it is easier for the latter to find casual work and they are less at risk of sexual abuse.

Male aggression and female resignation co-existed in the mixed schools in large part due to the complacency of the school leadership and the Ministry. In the mixed-sex schools little punitive or disciplinary action appeared to be taken, either against boys who harassed and assaulted girls, or against teachers who administered corporal punishment regularly or make sexual advances to girls. By doing nothing, the school was in fact condoning abuse. Even if a girl became pregnant by a teacher, it may well not be reported or if reported, not result in dismissal. Likewise boys who indulged in violent behaviour towards girls or got the girl pregnant were not expelled. Lack of evidence was usually the excuse given for inaction. Teaching staff too were complicit in this because they chose to turn a blind eye to what was going on around them; female teachers seemed particularly guilty in this respect. Furthermore, by projecting the teacher as a figure of authority and respect who should not be questioned by either parents or pupils, the school is helping to perpetuate abusive behaviour.

As for the consequences of the abuse, sexual and non-sexual, on girls, it was clear that those interviewed were troubled and frightened by the violent behaviour of boys and sexual advances by teachers, as well as by excessive corporal punishment. For them, the school was not a secure and conducive environment in which to live and learn. The risk of sexual advances from male teachers made them participate less in class for fear of being singled out for their attention and their movement around the school was restricted by fear of being accosted by older boys.

Not surprisingly, girls had little trust in their teachers and did not confide in them. This made attempts to teach them about personal and sexual development through the recently introduced subject of Guidance and Counselling ineffective. The girls felt that the teachers did not have their interests at heart and the teachers did not consider the subject important. They had also not been trained to teach it effectively. As a result, many girls remained alarmingly ignorant of matters relating to female puberty and sexuality. At the same time, many boys expressed alarmingly negative and biased opinions about girls, an attitude which needs to be changed if Zimbabwe is to become an equitable society.