MANILA, Philippines - How many Filipino school children have become victims of violence? The answer: 7 out of 10 public school children in Grades 4-6 and high school, and 4 out of 10 public school children in Grades 1 to 3, according to a study released Tuesday.
The violence comes in all forms: verbal, physical, and sexual, according to the study entitled "Towards A Child-Friendly Education Environment: A Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in Public Schools."
The study was presented by the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWS) and supported by Plan International, UNICEF, and AusAID.
Conducted by the Philippine Women's University's School of Social Work, the study covered 3 urban areas (Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City) and 6 rural areas (Mountain Province, Masbate, Camotes Island in Cebu, Northern Samar, Capiz, and Sultan Kudarat). The survey had 6,931 respondents in Grades 1 to 6, and high school.
Verbal abuse is the most common form of violence and includes being shouted at, cursed, ridiculed, teased, humiliated, threatened with violence, and even deliberately ignored or not spoken to.
Boys were threatened more, while girls were the ones who were more deliberately ignored.
Physical violence came in the form of being pinched (kinurot), had things thrown at the child, spanked, hit using hands or an object, made to stand under the sun, and locked in a room or enclosed space.
Males experienced more physical violence than females.
Sexual violence, on the other hand, was committed against children when they were spoken to in a sexually offensive manner, touched inappropriately, kissed, and forced to have sex.
Those who experienced sexual violence were both male and female children.
The study's findings also revealed that more incidents of violence occurred in urban areas, and that children suffer more acts of violence from peers than from adults. For younger children, though, physical violence came from adults more often.
"Nakaka-alarma ito. Natatakot tuloy pumasok ang mga estudyante," said Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman, who is also the President of the Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC). "Many parents do not know their children have suffered."
Effects on children
Anne, a 16-year-old student, remembers how her teacher in Grade 3 treated her when she could not answer a math problem.
"Inuntog ako sa blackboard. Tinawag akong bobo, tanga," she said.
This has left a mark on Anne. "Nawalan ako ng self-confidence. Hindi ako nag-re-recite. Ang hirap dalhin ng ganitong sitwasyon pag lumalaki," Anne revealed.
According to Education Undersecretary Alberto T. Muyot, violence committed against children really has an effect on them. "Talagang it can cause a child na ayaw pumasok kasi baka saktan ng teacher o classmate," he said.
Even Michael Diamond, Country Representative of Plan International Philippines, remembers having been slapped by his teacher when he was 5 years old for not doing his homework. The incident happened 61 years ago and he still remembers that day.
Children's perception of violence is focused on the acts -- which hurt them physically or emotionally -- and its demeaning effects (Nakakababa ng pagkatao), the study revealed.
It was also found out that the children accepted the physical and verbal forms of violence as part of discipline. Likewise, adults condone corporal punishment as a disciplinary measure as long as this does not leave a physical mark on the children.
What should be done
"Kailangang baguhin ang kultura ng pagpaparusa bilang pagdidisiplina," said Soliman. "Nagdudulot lang ito ng maraming pananakit na gagawin ng batang nasaktan," referring to the cycle of violence that occurs as a result.
The Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and groups like UNICEF, CWC, and Plan International pledged to work together to have child-friendly public schools in the country.
|Education Undersecretary Alberto Muyot (right) presents children a copy of the study "Towards a Child-Friendly Education Environment" at ceremonies held in Quezon City on Tuesday. Pledging support are: (L-R): Michael Diamond, Plan International Country Representative; Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman; and Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF Country Representative. Credit: ABS-CBN News
"The school should serve as a child's sanctuary, a place where memories are made and dreams are built," said Soliman.
“One of the goals of a child-friendly school is to ensure that children are safe and healthy," said Vanessa Tobin, UNICEF Country Representative. "As this report shows, many children do not feel that way. We hope that this research contributes to a growing body of evidence which proves that learning is not only about sharpening the mind but also about nurturing the heart. When boys and girls are able to express that they feel safe inside their schools, only then can we justifiably say that we have met our goal of making our education system truly child-centered and respectful of child rights.”
Tobin added that she hoped they can all work together to achieve two important goals: to ensure that schools are a safe, secure place for children, and that the corporate punishment bill be passed. The bill "seeks to ban all forms of physical punishment of children, whether at school, in the community or in the home. Violence towards children should never be tolerated – and we all have a responsibility to protect and respect all children," said Tobin.
Undersecretary Muyot said the DepEd has a Manual of Operations for Private Schools and Public Schools that prohibit corporal punishment.
He also said DepEd will develop an effective system or database for monitoring the violation of child rights.
"It is very sad that what we see in schools is just a reflection of the culture of violence in society," Muyot said.
Muyot said the public can report incidents of violence against children directly to the DepEd-NCR by calling the hotlines 633-7259 and 633-7205 (look for Aida). "Ipapa-imbestiga namin ang insidente," he said.
"Kailangan namin ng cooperation ng bata, magulang, community," said Muyot.
Soliman, on the other hand, said the DSWD is conducting community-based programs, such as family development seminars wherein parents are made aware of the rights of children.
She also added that they will push that there will be a guidance counselor in every public school.
Soliman also encouraged parents of victimized children to bring the matter to the Parent-Teacher Associations to help address the problem.
Anne said children like her should learn to talk about such violent acts committed against them, and let their parents or teachers know. -- Karen Galarpe, abs-cbnNEWS.com, with a report from Niña Corpuz, ABS-CBN News