The Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture (MEAC) has launched the National Safe School Framework (NSSF) which provides guidelines meant to ensure safer environments for school-going children,
amid concerns of increased violent incidences in schools and homes.
The Framework was launched on Wednesday in Windhoek.
It was jointly developed by the Education Ministry and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and identifies three standards to help Namibian schools create favourable teaching and learning environments.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, the Minister of Education, Arts and Culture, Katrina Hanse-Himarwa, said the framework was meant to ensure that no child is denied the right to education due to unsafe school circumstances.
“Incidences of violence in our schools and in our nation are concerning and we all must stand together in order to defeat these acts,” Hanse-Himarwa said.
The minister said the NSSF falls under the umbrella of the Integrated School Health Programme which has been executed in many different ways since independence.
“The Integrated School Health Programme goes beyond the physical health of the learner, in that it includes the all-inclusive wellbeing of the learner and educator, meaning that the school environment should be a safe and conducive environment for learners to flourish,” Hanse-Himarwa said.
Speaking at the same event, First Lady Monica Geingos, said violence in schools is likely a product of a child’s environment.
“Violence is a learned behaviour, but it can also be unlearned and the school is such a critical part of the socialisation process that whatever happens at home is reflected at school.
“If there is violence in a community and society where you come from then tolerance of that violence is what will show at school,” Geingos said.
The first lady said violence in schools goes beyond physical and emotional bullying, and includes cyber bullying as well.
“Youth continue experiencing violence online. Cyber violence is also a problem and it perpetuates aggression.”
According to the 2013 Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) for Namibia, 35 percent of learners aged 13-17 were in one or more physical fights within 12 months of the survey, with 57 percent of these being seriously injured.
About 46 percent of learners aged 13-17 reported being bullied at least once in the last 30 days of the survey and 21 percent of the learners aged 13-17 had seriously considered attempting suicide while 26 percent of learners aged 13-17 had actually attempted suicide in the last 12 months of the survey.
Gerrit Maritz, UNICEF representative for Namibia, said when acts of violence occur in school, there are often disruptions of teaching and learning not only for those that are directly involved, but also for bystanders.
“When learners do not feel safe at school, they purposefully stay away from the school environment to avoid being bullied, verbally abused, or sexually violated,” Maritz said.
The UNICEF representative also said the launch of the NSSF comes within a week of UNICEF’s global launch of the #End Violence Against Children – Safe in Schools campaign, which sheds light on and calls for global action to end violence in and around schools.
“The campaign also highlights that point that globally, violence is one of the major contributing factors to non-enrolment and non-completion of schooling and UNICEF is encouraging young people around the world to raise their voices to end all forms of abuse in and around schools.”
The NSSF will be used at national, regional and school level and will be inclusive of all Namibian learners.
At national and regional level it will be used as a policy document, while in schools it will be used as a practical tool to guide teachers and other school staff on how to promote safe and supportive school communities.