Young Girls In South Africa: Addressing Sexual Risk In Primary Schools

Friday, July 18, 2014: 8:30 AM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Deevia BHANA , Education, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
What role can primary schools play in the social protection of young children and how does this role interface with the home? This paper focuses on the ways in which a primary school and mothers of young children in extreme settings understand their role in addressing and supporting the social protection of young children from sexual violence. It draws on qualitative interviews with teachers, school managers and mothers to explore the school’s potential in addressing sexual violence beyond the traditional role of teaching and learning to explore both the opportunities and the limitations of the school’s pastoral work. The potential for the school to address issues around sexual violence was notable in teacher positioning within feminized understandings of their role in care-work which permits children to disclose sexual violence, well as a strategic interconnectedness of the school with the Department of Social Development. However, the opportunity structures are limited by the fear of intimidation in reporting sexual violence leading to silence, the prevalence of violent masculinities within the community, the lack of support from the education department and the inability to interface with parents to protect children. On the other hand, the interviews with the mothers illustrate their constricted gendered roles where grinding poverty, the cultural accommodation of male power, and gender inequalities intersect to reduce their ability to act and protect children. Given the burden of the complexity in supporting and protecting children from sexual violence the solutions cannot be left to the home and schools alone. A combined strategy that supports schools in protecting children from sexual violence, that interrogates the effects of gender power inequalities and economic conditions need to scrutinized to address and reduce girls’ particular vulnerability to sexual violence.