Widespread violence in India's schools is hampering the futures of millions of children and costing the country billions of pounds in lost social benefits, says Plan International in a report released this week.
“There are serious social implications of the continuation of such high numbers of children experiencing violence. The impact on children is tragic, as they have to suffer the humiliation and pain of the violence,” said Emily Laurie, global campaign coordinator for Plan International, which is calling for the world's governments and donors to make schools safe by stepping up efforts to stamp out violence.
Despite corporal punishment being outlawed in schools throughout India, about 65 percent of children surveyed by the the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2007 reported having been beaten at school, with some choosing to abandon their education altogether out of fear of their teachers.
Up to 5 percent of students in India who drop out of education do so as a result of corporal punishment, which costs India up to £4.7 billion a year in productivity and tax revenues lost because of children not finishing school, according to Plan.
A 2006 study by Saath Charitable Trust and Plan found that “corporal punishment is widely used and accepted by parents and teachers as a legitimate form of punishing children”.
A set of stringent guidelines against corporal punishment should be locked down and disseminated around the country off the back of the Ministry of Human Resource Development recently announcing plans for specific instructions to be given to schools, Plan said.
Of 547 million people under 20 in India, only 11 percent will become graduates, according to the Ministry of Human Resource Development. If nothing is done about under-performance and high drop-out rates in India, the nation will have little chance of achieving the Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education by the target 2015.
But it's not just India where school violence is a serious problem, added Emily Laurie.
“The global implications are enormous. In addition to the direct physical and mental impact on every child and family, the effect on violence in schools on national economies is massive and has serious implications for global economic recovery,” said Laurie.
According to Plan, every year, more than 350 million children around the world suffer some form of violence in school, while up to 65 percent of all schoolchildren are verbally or physically bullied. Compounding the problems, about 90 countries have yet to prohibit corporal punishment in schools despite calls by the UN for a blanket ban.
“Violence against children in schools is unfortunately a reality in every country in Asia and across the world. The rates and types of violence vary from country to country but every state needs to act now to prevent this violence from continuing,” she said.
In Nepal, 14 percent of children have experienced sexual violence, while in Pakistan sexual abuse against children is not illegal and in Bangladesh, 30 percent of students admit to being perpetrators of violence.
The cost of school violence in 13 countries where data was available was about £38 billion in lost social benefits, but the financial implications are only the beginning, especially in the world's poorest countries.
“Though violence in schools affects all children in all countries, children in poverty are more likely to feel the impacts — both social and economical. Poorer education due to violence in schools has a knock-on effect, so children learn less, have lower grades, leading to less well paid jobs which keeps the family poor and ultimately the state earning less in taxes,” added Laurie.
Violence keeping children out of school seriously reduces their chances of being able to work their way out of poverty, which contributes to far-reaching social problems as children exposed to violence in schools are more likely to turn to violence later in life.
The economic impact of global violence in schools is huge even in the developed world. Sixteen-year-olds in the UK who find themselves on the receiving end of bullying are twice as likely to drop out of school and end up jobless, costing public finance £71,000 per person, while in the US, school violence costs the economy £5.7 billion a year.
“Violence in schools is costing children their futures and keeping them poor. It is preventing countries from developing and perpetuating violence that has an impact on every society,” the report concluded.