*This report was written jointly by the Zambian Governance Foundation and Loop. It reflects information from August 2022 to May 2023.
- Students understand what it means to be in a safe environment and they are aware of what abuse is.
- They have many questions in regards to reporting safely and how that is handled by the authorities.
- They are not aware of the safety measures put in place by the government to ensure that they are taken out of harmful environments.
- They learnt how to and used the Loop safe reporting mechanism for various educational and non educational purposes.
The Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring all students at their schools are safe. This includes providing training to students to increase their knowledge of appropriate behaviour as well as where and how to report abuse safely.
As such the Ministry of Education under the HIV/AIDS unit partnered with Talk to Loop in Zambia, a charity hosted by the Zambian Governance Foundation, to deliver a series of 5 trainings in secondary schools in Lusaka as a first pilot.
In the pilot 1,239 students between grade 9 and 12 attended the workshops at their own schools (421 female and 810 male).
More boys attended the workshops because the all male schools were more responsive and could make time in their agenda to accommodate the Loop workshop. Girls' schools were slower to respond and offered fewer students to train.
Loop staff conducted highly interactive training sessions with students between the ages of 12 and 19 about safe reporting. In Zambia children in grade 8 can be between 12 or 14 years of age and grade 12 students being between 16 and 19 years of age.
Students were engaged and teachers were warm and welcoming.
Students asked questions such as:
- How do we report abuse from guardians?
- Can children report abuse?
- Is corporal punishment allowed
- What if my friend has mental health issues how can I support her
- I see people using drugs. Can they use Loop?
- I didn't know where to report safely before. Now I do.
We found that younger students asked questions more about incidents with guardians and inappropriate actions from family or community members. While older students asked more about teachers abusing them, abusive partners, sexual consent etc.
After engaging discussions the students learnt how to report safely using Loop. Brochures and fliers were left behind for further sharing of information.
All students attended in their schools, usually as part of a free period and in some cases teachers joined and listened in.
As a result of the workshops we saw a number of reports on Loop from students in the areas where the workshops had been delivered.
Some students mentioned concerns about alcoholism in their communities. They were referred to youth groups in their communities to support them.
Two Gender Based Violence reports were received as well as at least 3 requests for mental health support from school students in the three weeks following the workshop. Some additional safeguarding queries came in with students looking for where to get more information.
Many months after the workshop one of the students used Loop to successfully get a safe place to live and be referred for medical help. She became pregnant after gender based violence and was no longer safe in her own family. She reported being too scared to go to the local police station.
One of the issues experienced from reporting from students was a difficulty in getting back in touch with some of them after they made a report or after having made initial contact with them. Students in Zambia tend to have a SIM card but not necessarily their own phone device due to costs. They will use other people's phones, put their SIM card in it to make the calls or submit the feedback onto Loop. No data is needed to report using Loop.
Students were also made aware of Childline/ Helpline as another option for reporting. Some stated that they feel safer sending a message because they can control when to input information, when to get responses and they felt ‘less stigmatised or judged’.
Interestingly there were no reports about schools, neither positive nor negative.
We are aware that with the new policy for free education there is an over subscription of students in schools. To cope, schools have established multiple cycles of classes in the one education facility, very high student to teacher ratios for classes and the use of volunteer teachers. It is recognised that while excellent that more students get a quality education this environment can also increase risk factors of child abuse, exploitation, fraud and safeguarding.
Loop is available to do more awareness raising events to help build knowledge in schools about students rights and about different ways to stay safe and report issues. The Zambian Governance Foundation would be interested to discuss a further pilot, in rural areas with the Ministry and possible next steps.
Ideally ZGF would work with the Ministry of Education to roll out Loop to more schools in different areas of Zambia, over a longer period of time, so as to reach more schools and more students, in alignment with their school timetables - exams, holidays etc.
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