A new survey says children in West African schools suffer regular beatings and are learning first hand about sex, violence, humiliation and child labor. The survey, called Suffering to Succeed, was conducted by Plan International, a children’s charity.
Amanda Barnes is a spokesperson for Plan International. From London, she spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the findings, which are based on student testimony in Togo.
“We just did a survey in Togo, but we know that’s typical of many countries in West Africa. And there we found that eight out of 10 children reported having been beaten in school. Eighty percent of children being beaten at school is a very high rate and it’s certainly a cause for concern. Kids who are beaten up at school, they can’t study and it makes school a really frightening and terrifying place for them to be.”
Barnes relates what some of the Togolese children said in the survey: “One child told us about being beaten on her back in front of the whole class until her back was bleeding and her clothes were soaking in blood. And she was crying, as you could imagine. Other children would tell us that the threat of being beaten, the threat of violence, was enough force them to be petrified of going to school and afraid of their teachers.”
The Plan survey also contains reports of sexual assaults. Barnes says, ”We found that one in every 25 girls reported being approached by teachers asking for sex in return for marks or for other kind of favors in the classroom. Some of it was just teachers taking advantage of young girls in the classroom. And we did note that the vast majority of teachers in Togo have not had any training of any kind. And the vast majority of them are male teachers and they get very little supervision.”
As for the regular beatings, the Plan spokesperson says, “It’s partly a culture of violence…but also teachers reported that they were teaching very large classrooms of children of various ages and they felt that that was the only way they could control unruly pupils.”
Barnes explains that there are many other ways of dealing with unruly students that don’t involved beatings. The Plan report has been presented to the Togolese government and the organization says there’s been a good response.