PHILIPPINES: Beatings, bullying rife in Philippine schools

[MANILA, 11 August 2010] - Beatings and sexual harassment are rife in state-run schools in the Philippines, with many pupils also routinely bullied, according to a government-led study published this week.

Schools tolerate teachers spanking, beating, pinching, slapping, cursing and shouting at children to impose discipline, and there are no standard mechanisms for addressing complaints, the Council for the Welfare of Children said.

"Children experience violence both from their peers in school and from school personnel," the council, an agency of the social welfare ministry, said in a summary of its findings.

"The degree or gravity as well as the incidence of abuse increases as the child graduates from one level to another."

The survey, a random sampling this year of schools in the country's three largest cities and six rural provinces, found four in 10 children suffered some kind of violence in class in their first three years in school.

Children begin going to schools in the Philippines at age seven.

The violence worsened to 70 percent of students between fourth grade and high school, with verbal abuse, including being shouted at, cursed, ridiculed, teased or humiliated, the most common incident suffered.

While male children were more likely to suffer physical violence, verbal sexual harassment was experienced equally by both sexes. Violence was more common in urban areas than rural ones.

"Adults condone corporal punishment as long as it does not 'leave a mark' (e.g. bruises, wounds) on children," it added.

Michael Diamond, country director of children's rights watchdog Plan International Inc that helped fund the study, said the violence may be contributing to the high student dropout rate in Philippine schools.

"Children who suffer violence... oftentimes lose their interest and totally refuse to go to school," Diamond said in a statement.

The government estimates up to two million children drop out of Philippine schools every year. Twenty-three million started the new school year in June.

Education ministry spokesmen told AFP they were aware of the study but that the junior minister assigned to look into the issue, Undersecretary Alberto Muyot, was not available to make a comment Wednesday.

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