Resource 3: The role of schoolteachers
Background information / subject knowledge for teacher
Schoolteachers are in a position to identify when children are being abused. They have opportunities to get to know individual children well, and thus to notice changes in a child’s behaviour or performance, which could be linked to abuse. Children may also disclose their circumstances as part of life skills lessons or other parts of the curriculum.
If a teacher suspects abuse, a useful process to follow is:
- Start gathering information as soon as you suspect child abuse.
- Continue to do so consistently, and document all information gathered.
- Treat all this information as confidential.
- Discuss your suspicions and the information that you have gathered with the head teacher (unless she or he is possibly implicated).
- Ensure confidentiality by opening a separate file for the particular pupil. This file must be kept in the strong room or safe.
- The head teacher and the teacher must consult the list of criteria for the identification of different types of abuse to verify the information before making any allegations of child abuse. Include in this process professionals who have experience.
- Remain objective at all times and do not allow personal matters, feelings or preconceptions to cloud your judgement.
- Any information to do with child abuse is confidential and must be handled with great discretion.
- The reporting and investigation of child abuse must be done in such a way that the safety of the pupil is ensured.
- Justice must not be jeopardised, but at the same time the support needed by the pupil and their family must not be neglected.
Other important things to remember when talking to pupils are:
- Do not tell a child who discloses abuse that you do not believe them.
- Affirm the child’s bravery in making the disclosure.
- Tell the child what you are going to do about what you have been told, and why.
- If possible, tell the child what will happen next.
- Refer the child for counselling if necessary.
- Be prepared to give evidence in court if there is a trial.
There are many organisations across Africa dedicated to the prevention of child abuse, for example the African Network for the Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN). See http://www.anppcan.org/ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] for more information.
For a discussion with lots of recommendations with reference to sexual abuse of school children in Ghana follow the link below for a document called Gender Violence in Schools in Ghana.
http://www.sussex.ac.uk/ education/ documents/ ghana.pdf (Accessed 2008)
Your local education office should be able to get you a copy.
The foundation below will be a good contact for information and resources around various child abuse issues.
Rights of the Child Foundation
PO Box 2502 Accra GA District Ghana Tel: 233 21 767271 Fax: 233 21 772753
Please note: The World Day for Child Abuse is 19 November every year.
Adapted from: Resources Aimed at the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (RAPCAN) – http://www.rapcan.org.za/ (Accessed 2008)
Resource 2: Types of abuse
Resource 4: Finding out what pupils already know about relationships