Violence against children in Tanzania – Does it affect child education?

Despite Tanzania’s efforts to end child violence, awareness on the prevention and strategies are generally inadequate. Violence against children has revealed the profound impact on core aspects of emotional, behavioral, and physical health as well as social development throughout life and mostly in education settings where child skills are developed. Nearly 3 in 10 girls and approximately 1 in 7 boys in Tanzania have experienced violence prior to the age of 18 in school settings. Tanzania is recently estimated to have a population of 58 million with its population being very youthful. It is estimated that children below 15 years comprise about 44% of the population and an additional 19% are youth between 15-24 years. This population makes children prone to violence in the community.

DSC 0384Morris Ntilla, a Youth In Action and a member of the GNRC from TanzaniaCommon abuses that are frequently reported are related to physical violence including corporal punishment and sexual violence to children living in rural areas. Such Cases of abuse in school settings are increasing in Tanzania. Instead of the school becoming centers of support they are becoming places where different kinds of abuses happen. Corporal punishment in Tanzania is still allowed under a 1930 law and is the most common type of punishment imposed by the courts for persons less than 18 years of age for almost all kinds of offenses. It is widely accepted as a disciplinary measure in childrearing and not perceived as harmful or abusive. It only becomes violence when it exceeds and hence violates children's rights that are to be protected.

Such incidences of violence in school settings have revealed several setbacks to the progress of child education. It has often been experienced in rural areas than in urban areas/cities in Tanzania. School dropout due to fear of abuse from teachers, poor education results, feeling unsafe in school settings makes children fail to attain their education rights. Even though Tanzania is bound by regional and international laws to protect children and uphold their right to education and ensure their freedom from any form of violence, the issues remain largely unaddressed. Many violent cases are settled outside of the country’s justice systems through traditional means, for instance, sexual violence (early marriage), while girls who fall pregnant as a result are forced out of the education system. This is partly because of the systemic problems that arise when cases are reported; lack of political will and the reinforcement of the culture of silence.

However, amid these violations that painfully affect the education of children, there is a ray of hope for the children in Tanzania. The parliament of Tanzania passed the Law of the Child Act in 2009, signaling an increased political commitment to upholding children’s rights, including freedom from violence, abuse and exploitation.

Education is a fundamental human right for children and is indispensable for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 4 provides for inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all (including children). This education has to be provided in a safe environment according to community settings. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 5, target 5.2, 5.3, and SDG 16, further, calls to end all forms of violence in communities, as well as maintaining sustainable peace.

There is hope for ending violence against children to support the development and implementation of effective protection and prevention strategies. These strategies will foster sustainable education in Tanzania. With commitments of faith actors, traditional actors, and the community at large, it will provide a community that is free from violence and foster education to children.

Morris is passionate about peace building and children’s wellbeing, especially ending violence against children.