The wisdom and tenderness of the school aunt and father will overcome the scourge
Sexual violence and early pregnancy in schools is a sad reality in Burundi. According to testimonials collected during awareness and training sessions organized by FAWE Burundi in 2018, the victims are 18 years old and younger. The perpetrators are not the ogres living in the wild as in fables but are close and sometimes may be relatives or even teachers.
As such, the strategies identified by FAWE must be comprehensive actions for the potential victims and the society that is supposed to protect children.
Since students spend most of their time in school, there is an obligation to ensure the prevention of anything that could disrupt the school environment. In fact, children who are victims of violence suffer serious psychological trauma which leads to reactions such as withdrawal, self-loathing, dropping out of school and aggression.
The idea of aunt and father figures has its origin in the Burundian tradition where sex education from adolescence was provided by the father for the boy and paternal aunt for the girl. These people were responsible for guiding the understanding of the physiological and psychological transformations that appear during this period of growth and maturation. Where this education is lacking, the void is filled by fantasy and mythical explanations from their peers.
In the school setting, the aunt and father figures, one aunt and one father per school, are identified among the school staff and vetted for their moral integrity. Students obviously have a voice in this selection.
FAWE provides these people with training on the prevention and eradication of sexual violence and provides them with some popularisation materials such as posters and other communication materials.
Caution is taken when interacting with the young people because issues relating to sexuality are traditionally taboo and the victims are stigmatized by their community. Support groups calle “Tuganire mw’ibanga”, meaning “I express myself in confidence” and suggestion boxes were set up in the targeted schools.
FAWE Burundi has realized that all schools in the country face this scourge of sexual violence since the victims have low self-confidence and may be intellectually and economically disadvantaged. With support courtesy of the cooperation with UNICEF, 3 communes from the 3 most affected provinces were selected. The selection criterion is based on the the highest pregnancy rates according to 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 statistics.
Follow-up with the pupils, school officials and child protection committees revealed a largely positive appreciation of the actions already undertaken. Because the project achieved its objectives, it would be ideal if all our schools benefited from this service that safeguards our youth.