ChildFund's new project will see teachers at 17 schools in Papua New Guinea trained to teach students about gender equality, violence prevention, consent, and building respectful relationships. Along with parents and other community members, teachers will also be educated on children's rights, the importance of making behavior changes to better respect children, and why this is all so critical for thei futures of Papua New Guinea youth writes ChildFund Monitoring and Evaluation Advisor Fiona Callen.
For over 30 years, Kiwi parents have been able to send their kids to school knowing that they won’t be physically punished. Corporal punishment was banned in 1990 and was increasingly uncommon for decades before that. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), unfortunately parents don’t have the same confidence that their children will be protected at school, despite the government committing to ban corporal punishment.
Recently ChildFund spoke to students across four high schools in PNG about the challenges they are facing. Sadly, students said physical punishment is common at school with students regularly being hit, beaten and sworn at.
A common punishment for Papua New Guinea youth is to crawl laps on the footpath around the classroom on their knees, one student had been knocked unconscious by a teacher and many described fearing their teachers and feeling threatened and overwhelmed at times.
These students are growing up in an environment where violence is common not only at school but also at home and in the community. Violence against women and children are significant problems in PNG.
We know that being exposed to violence can cause harm to children’s physical and emotional wellbeing and have long-term effects on their health. It may impact their peer relationships, academic progress, and emotional stability.
In addition to what's happening at school, students often walk up to two hours each way to get there and this also means they get home very late. Girls are sometimes threatened or harassed on their journey, and all students are wary of being robbed or bullied.
Some boys reported that they did not feel safe when they reached the school as there was no fencing and people from the community would enter the school to get drunk or take drugs. Some schools don’t have toilets for the students so they must relieve themselves in the bush – putting them at risk from snakes and harassment.
Female students face additional challenges including harassment, social norms inhibiting female participation and leadership, withdrawal from school or exclusion from activities, and teen pregnancy.
ChildFund New Zealand is implementing a five-year project in PNG with funding from the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and supporters. The project will train teachers at 17 high schools to teach their students about gender equality, violence prevention, consent, and building respectful relationships.
The project aims to educate and support teachers, parents and other community members on the importance of children's rights and in making behaviour changes to better respect children in order for them to thrive.
We call the programme Rights, Respect, Resilience.
Students will be supported to form school action groups and address issues that are important to them. Youth who have already left school will also be trained to deliver the Rights, Respect, Resilience curriculum to community members to help change social dynamics that normalise violence.
And teachers will be trained to use alternative, more positive, approaches to disciplining students. At ChildFund New Zealand, we believe every child has the right to protection from violence.
Learn more about Fiona Callen here.