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Schools address gender-based violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

September 09, 2012

With support from FHI 360’s C-Change Project — funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development — 31 primary and secondary schools in Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are now known as Ecoles sans Violence (Schools without Violence). The project, managed by FHI 360, has equipped girls and boys ages 10–14 to resist and report school-related, gender-based violence (SRGBV) and provided support when incidents occurred. By the end of September 2012, the project had trained more than 700 teachers and established codes of conduct, classroom regulations and procedures for both preventing and addressing such violence.

“At our school, because there has been good training, there is good education,” says Christelle, a student at one of the target primary schools. “We have codes of conduct that respect our rights and our duties. The teachers give us good advice like our parents.”

C-Change used community radio and television to encourage parents and other community members to support change, both inside and outside the classroom. To raise awareness and combat school-related, gender-based violence, 2,750 radio spots were aired and 70 in-depth radio shows were broadcast over the life of the project. Publications, school curricula, referral guides and a comic book series were produced and distributed in the 31 target schools. Additionally, 154 youth club leaders were trained as peer mentors.

An evaluation conducted in May 2012 revealed that C-Change’s comprehensive approach to SRGBV had successfully begun to change underlying attitudes and beliefs among students and teachers and had improved the safety and security of the learning environment:

  • 89 percent of teachers in target schools reported that they had directly addressed SRGBV through training/teaching of students, compared to 16 percent before the project began.
  • 90 percent of students reported being aware of how to prevent or avoid SRGBV, compared to 33 percent before the project.
  • Awareness of instances of psychological violence in target schools post-project versus pre-project (as reported by students) decreased by 36 percent.
  • The level of awareness of instances of physical violence in target schools post-project versus pre-project (as reported by students) decreased by 46 percent.
  • 46 percent of students in the project’s target schools reported feeling more secure in school after the project.

The most dramatic change was the reduction in the use of the most violent forms of corporal punishment by teachers. Striking students or using whips or canes to enforce school discipline declined by 66 percent.

“After the training we received, I have thrown away my whip, since it does not serve me anymore,” said a secondary school teacher in the city of Lubumbashi. “Now I advocate dialogue with my students and the learning environment has improved ... now I treat (the students) like children. So, not using the whip has encouraged greater dialogue between teacher and students.”