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Sexual harassment rampant in schools, says UN report

Sunday December 11 2016
PIX1

A United Nations agency has raised a red flag of sexual harassment of learners aged 13 to 17 by teachers in schools. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By OUMA WANZALA

A United Nations agency has raised a red flag of sexual harassment of learners aged 13 to 17 by teachers in schools in the country.

In its latest report, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) says teachers were reported to be perpetrators of sexual harassment with an average of 39 per cent of school principals stating that teacher-pupil harassment had occurred in their schools.

The global education monitoring report titled Education for People and Planet: Creating Sustainable Futures for All, which was released last week in Nairobi by the Ministry of Education, also indicates that 40 per cent of school principals reported pupil-pupil sexual harassment in their schools.

“Much of the scale and scope of sexual violence in schools remains hidden,” says the report. “Sexual violence, a highly destructive form of violence in schools, is a global concern, yet knowledge of its extent is limited.

“It manifests as verbal and psychological harassment, sexual assault, rape, coercion, exploitation and discrimination in and around schools.”

The 2016 report goes on: “But the way school principals perceive the problem provides an incomplete picture.”

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This year, the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) sacked 22 teachers found to have engaged in sexual relations with their students. Last year, it had fired 126 teachers for the same reason.

The report observes that school-based interventions have a demonstrated effect on health, education, economic and gender-equity outcomes.

“For instance, a comprehensive, integrated programme to improve school water, sanitation and hygiene in Kenya resulted in a nearly 50 per cent reduction in girls’ absence and was especially important for schools that had had poor water,” states the report.

It further shows that classroom effects — a combination of teacher knowledge, time allocation and teaching practices — explained roughly 15 per cent of the total variance of student achievement, three times more than in high-income countries.

“Positive reinforcement and frequent formative assessment were most strongly associated with increased student achievement, while mistreating students had a negative effect,” says the report.

OVERCROWDED CLASSROOMS

 The report cites Kenya as among countries that have overcrowded classrooms, pointing to an inadequate supply of teachers and noting that there is a need to recruit tutors.

It also indicate that quantity of teachers cannot be isolated from quality.

“Policy-makers have often responded to the challenge of expanding enrolment and increasing class size by lowering hiring standards,” adds the report that was released last week in Nairobi by the Ministry of Education.

The government has put the shortage of teachers in the country at 87,489, with primary schools being in need of 39,913 teachers and secondary schools having a deficit of 47,576 teachers.

Education Principal Secretary Bellio Kispang said that more than a million children are out of school, yet the Constitution of Kenya and the Basic Education Act, 2013 commits the government to provide a Free and Compulsory Basic Education.

“We also identify very much with the challenges of special needs children, gender inequalities and relevance,” said Dr Kipsang.

The report notes that 40 per cent of the global population are taught in a language they do not easily comprehend with Sub-Saharan Africa having the most countries with the highest degree of linguistic diversity.

It however notes that in a randomised control trial among 210 primary schools in the former Western Province of Kenya, the effect of nearly halving the first grade class size from 82 to 44 had no effect on learning.

The report further notes that the pupil teacher ratio indicator has weaknesses, as it does not reflect real availability of teachers in classrooms.

It adds that improving data on teacher qualifications will yield better information on how school systems comply with minimum standards, but will not address the need for evidence on teacher knowledge and skills.

“Given the diversity of competencies teachers bring to the classroom, it is unrealistic to look for global measures of teacher skills,” adds the report.

The report reveals that when teachers and students were subjected to same test in Kenya only 2 per cent of teachers scored below the concrete problem-solving level in mathematics.

The report shows the potential for education to propel progress towards all global goal outlined in the new 2030 agenda for sustainable development (SDGs).

MAJOR TRANSFORMATION

“It shows that education needs a major transformation to fulfil that potential and meet the current challenges facing humanity and the planet,” said Unesco regional director Mrs Ann Ndong-Jatta during the launch.

The report shows the need for education system to step up attention on environment.

“Education system need to ensure that they are giving people vital skills and knowledge that can support the transition to greener industries, and find new solutions for environmental problems,” said Mrs Ndong-Jatta.

It adds that only six percent of adults in the poorest countries attend literacy programmes.

The report warns that inequality in education, interacting with wider disparities, heightens the risk of violence and conflicts in sub- Sahara Africa.

It adds that educating mothers in lower secondary in Sub-Sahara Africa by 2030 could prevent 3.5million child deaths between2050-60.

Dr Kipsang, added that the government has made a decision that mainstreaming SDGs will be at the centre of its national development planning.

“The Ministry is now exploring strengthening linkages and collaborations with philanthropist and other stakeholders for the good of the Kenyan child. We are now very strict on levies   which are outside the gazetted fees guidelines because in order to ensure that education is affordable,” said the PS.

He added that the government is tightening checks to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the education system.

It adds that multiple factors influence the time students spend learning in early grades.

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