The event will be facilitated by the UNESCO Regional Bureau of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean (OREALC/UNESCO Santiago) and the Gabriela Mistral Museum of Education, together with students of teaching at the Universidad Metropolitana de Ciencias de la Educación (UMCE).
The workshop is centred on the importance of the school environment for learning achievement, a factor that UNESCO has studied in depth and that has become one of the main obstacles standing in the way of achieving the global pledges of Education for All. A wide range of studies have shown how being a victim of violence at school or witnessing such situations of violence affects a student’s medium and long term academic performance.
School bullying is defined as repeated and ongoing situations of mistreatment and abuse of power (psychological or physical), and may have different but equally negative consequences for all those involved in such practices. In these situations, there are three different roles in peer violence situations: students who are the aggressors or abusers; those who are victims of such abuse; and those who witness and are aware of the situation. At least four classes of school bullying are also known: social, verbal, physical, and psychological violence, relating to cultural patterns of dominance and submission. Students affected by harassment generally develop problems with concentration and learning difficulties.
These behaviours exist in schools all over the world. A 2010 study conducted by UNESCO, titled “Education Under Attack”, showed that seven out of every ten high school teachers in Latin America recognise that levels of violence in their schools are high. Nonetheless, peer violence tends to be ignored by teachers and by the school system, where it is seen as part of interaction between students – particularly among male students, as gender is a significant component in the phenomenon of bullying and the school system’s ways of countering it.
In addition to their effects on learning, discriminatory practices have another consequence: they limit meeting points between students from different cultures and contexts, with consequent negative effects on social cohesion and integration. Discrimination creates a fear of those who are different, taking the form of an irrational fear of all persons who are seen as different from the group or who fail to follow established social norms. Discrimination thus pulverises the richness of cultural diversity and lays the foundations of violence.
The UN World Report on Violence against Children (2006) indicates that gender based sexual violence and harassment exists in schools against girls, teachers, and classmates, and particularly against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual (LGBT) young people. The study found that gender based and sexual harassment generally affects students who go against culturally imposed gender norms, which may include LGBT.
This situation is particularly serious in view of the fact that young people with sexual lifestyles other than heterosexuality are at greater risk of falling victim to self harm and suicide. They are also on average more likely to consume alcohol excessively and to use drugs. Studies conducted in the USA and Canada by GLSEN have drawn a link between these observations and bullying or harassment in the school, directed against those with a sexual orientation or gender identity that differs from the established pattern. A 2011 study conducted in Mexico found that three out of every four homosexual young people had been victims of bullying, mainly through mockery and insults, although physical violence and sexual abuse were also reported. 48% indicated that their teachers paid no attention to the attacks, and 10% considered their teachers to be “complicit in the homophobia”. The survey was developed by the Youth Coalition for Sexual and Reproductive Rights and the Coalición de Jóvenes por la Educación y la Salud Sexual (COJESS).
The United Nations and Gender Violence
In a message delivered on 8 December, 2011, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon declared that homophobic bullying constitutes "a moral outrage, a grave violation of human rights and a public health crisis ". This recognition of the scale of the problem reflects the organization’s commitment to the principles and objectives of Education for All (EFA).
In view of the urgency of this problem, in December 2011 UNESCO organized the first international meeting to address homophobic bullying, held in Rio de Janeiro. The results of these international talks will be compiled in the publication “Education sector responses to homophobic intimidation”, which will include a practical guide for the development and implementation of policies, actions, and practical tools to prevent and combat homophobic bullying in education centres, selected to be age-appropriate and adjusted to be suitable for a wide range of socio-cultural contexts. This new UNESCO publication is intended to be a reliable source of material for the support of education ministries, and to provide motivation to strengthen responses to the harassment of homosexual members of educational communities.
The workshop “The challenge of education without violence” will be held on Wednesday 16 May, 2012, from 15:30 to 19:30 hrs, at the Gabriela Mistral Museum of Education, Chacabuco 365, Santiago Centro.
Mary Guinn Delaney
Regional Advisor on HIV and Gender
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Confronting homophobic bullying in school