5 things we can do to reduce violence in our schools

A group of three students in Ecuador with a sign that reads: Words Matter. How do you use them?

1.  Stop contributing to the problem

Key to solving the problem of violence in schools is also acknowledging that we (Youth) are huge contributors to the issue. In fact, data from UNICEF shows that close to 130 million students between the ages of 13 and 15 experience bullying worldwide.

So, you know what I think? We need to start accepting more responsibility. We need to think more about how what we say and do affects our peers. We need to speak up for our peers who are being bullied. And we need to resist becoming bullies ourselves. 

Every one of us should:

  • Aim to be more supportive of our peers.
  • Be more respectful in our disagreements.
  • Never intentionally exclude our peers from activities.
  • Try to always understand the line between friendly teasing and bullying. This often varies based on your relationship with your peer and their personality.

And if you find yourself feeling angry a lot, or having trouble controlling your emotions, ask for help from a trusted adult.

2. Join a club or organization

If you’re committed to reducing violence in schools, your first plan of action should be to check if there are any clubs in your school that specifically target this effort. Sometimes it might be a club to support students who are prone to violence by offering an opportunity to release aggression, like a boxing/ sparring club. If that’s the case, then you could help in promoting the initiative to the school and increase membership.

Another possible option would be to look up national or local community initiatives that focus on reducing violence in schools and getting them implemented within your school. This, of course, means that you will have to consult with your school administration regarding the procedure to get them involved.

Rizka, the young creator of a comic that deals with bullying, stands in front of the UN headquarters in New York, with a copy of her comic

Rizka is an 18-year-old illustrator and anti-bullying advocate from Indonesia. She recently traveled to New York to launch her comic book “CIPTA: Create!” which tells the story of how one girl helps defeat bullying and restores peace in her school. Read it here.

3. Start your own initiative

“But Charles, what if there isn’t anything in my school or area that works on reducing violence in schools?”

Well, in that case, a possible option would be to start an initiative, club, or programme within the school that works on reducing violence in your school.

This may not be easy. It will be important that you have friends or like-minded students helping you to execute the project. You should also get the support of some teachers and school management. You will also need to do some research on clubs, initiatives or programmes throughout the world working towards the same goal so that you can develop a practical and sustainable plan to execute.

It might also require fundraising. Get creative! Nothing beats a good bake sale.

4. Report

Ever heard the saying, “Silence can be deadly”? It turns out that this is often very much the case. If you have witnessed a student being abducted or violently abused in or around school, one of your first instincts should be to report it to your school or local authorities, based on the situation.

The same principle stands for peer-to-peer disputes. If you notice that an incident cannot be peacefully resolved among students, then reporting can save your peers from any violent confrontations as well as any consequences that would have resulted from the violence.

We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to the injustices against our peers. We can only stand strong by standing together.

Check out this guide from Voices of Youth on how to stand up and speak out.

5. Use Social Media

The tool of the modern!

Social media is your chance to reach out to decision-makers, raise awareness, and inspire change. If violence against children in schools is an important issue to you, social media can be used to shed light on the situation in your school or multiple schools in your country. It is your opportunity to challenge the status quo and demand change from your nation’s leadership.

Even the tallest trees were once seeds, so your small campaign may be magnified as a result of the traction created by the alarming nature of the situation. But it starts with a first step.

You can even organise a structured campaign with your peers to post using a specific hashtag, graphic or theme.

Real change may sometimes have to be demanded and not merely awaited.

How’s that new IG story coming along?

A graphic

Choose respect. Choose support. Choose kindness.

Join UNICEF's latest campaign and brighten up someone’s day by leaving them a kind note - online or IRL. Then share it with UNICEF using the hashtag #ENDviolence. To learn more, click here.

About the author: Charles is a 23-year-old Jamaican youth ambassador, law student, and champion for child rights. He started his path of advocacy at the age of 15 when he participated in the United Nations Third Sub-Regional meeting in the Caribbean on Violence Against Children. Charles is currently working on executing a project called ‘No Fear, Just Knowledge’, that tackles violence against children in schools. This was a direct response to his instrumental role in helping to craft the Youth Manifesto to End Violence In and Around Schools.