Researchers find most Hanoi students feel unsafe at school

Thanh Nien News

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Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach

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A survey of 3,000 secondary and high school students in Vietnam’s capitol revealed that many are victims of violence and sexual abuse.
The Institute of Social and Medical Studies and the local office of Plan International, an NGO working for children’s rights, compiled the study, which reflects many students’ concerns about their safety at school, according to comments made by the group during a conference in Hanoi on Wednesday, VnExpress reported.
Around 80 percent of the students said they suffered abuse at school at least once and 71 percent suffered abuse while the survey was being compiled--between March and September of this year. The summer break is between late May and late August, but several schools have taken a shorter time off.
Of the respondents, 73 percent said they suffered verbal abuse like threats, insults, scolds, and slander; 41 percent said they'd suffered physical abuse such as slaps, kicks, pushing, hair pulling; and 19 percent reported sexual abuse including unwanted text messages, forced kisses, unwanted touching, and rape.
The respondents attended 30 schools and provided their feedback through questionnaires and in-depth interviews.
Boys were found to be the likeliest victims of physical abuse while girls suffered sexual abuse, they said.
Verbal abuse was suffered by around the same number of secondary school and high school students, the study found.
Sexual abuse was most prevalent in high schools while physical abuse was twice as common in secondary schools, it found.
One female high school respondent said there were not many physical fights at her school, but sexual harassment was common.
She recalled receiving a lot of seductive messages from a boy at her school, so much so that she had to ask an older cousin to intervene.
She also reported receiving threats from a jealous female student.
Only 16 percent of female students and 19 percent of boys described their schools as safe.
The students said toilets were the least safe places at school since teachers, who have their own toilets, are not around.
They said they find themselves in situations that can lead to sexual abuse when they mistakenly enter the toilet of another gender, or when they are forced to because their friends throw their personal items into them.
Do Thi Thu Hong, vice principal of Van Thang Secondary School which was polled during the study in Ba Vi District, told VnExpress that abuse at the school has declined, but still exists.
“We’ve recorded around 15 cases since the start of the school year, and most of them were physical fights and threats,” she said.
Hong said sometimes the conflicts begin for seemingly no reason--one person deciding that another "looks annoying."
The abuse, according to the study, happens mostly among students, but sometimes teachers are the perpetrators.
More than 31 percent of male teachers said canning, slapping and scolding were acceptable forms of punishment in certain cases.
Hong said scolding and beating students is a common practice at her school, but only because teachers don't understand that corporal punishment is abuse and can leave lasting psychological scars.
Since participating in the study, those teachers have treated their students more positively, Hong said.
Nguyen Hiep Thong, deputy director of Hanoi’s education department, said they have carried out various efforts since 2008 to reduce abuse at schools.
“We have trained a team of young leaders at each school to fight acts of abuse. Schools now have offices where students can share their conflicts and concern,” Thong said.

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