The introductory statement was, All countries suffer from fights and murders. Fights in the home can result in injuries. Violence is much worse where there is a war or civil war. Do you think: [Eleven questions follow, to be answered STRONGLY AGREE, AGREE, DON'T KNOW, DISAGREE, STRONGLY DISAGREE; there follow two other questions to be answered YES/NO; the final question is open-ended.]
The aim of this group of questions was to go beyond the concept that citizens have a right to a peaceful existence to explore why violence is used, domestic violence and bullying, the legitimacy of state violence, and knowledge of the UN convention whose article 19 is designed to protect children from violence.
The key findings here were:
i Most students in all samples were worried about violence, and most thought violence is never necessary because it is always possible to settle an argument peacefully. Percentages expressing worry were: Botswana 66.5%, India 72.4%, Northern Ireland 64.5% and Zimbabwe 78.1%. Percentages agreeing and strongly agreeing that violence is never necessary were: Botswana 70%, India 74.8%, Northern Ireland 61.7% and Zimbabwe 67.9%. It was striking that in Northern Ireland, the scene of conflict for over 25 years, average anxiety was lower than in the three other countries.
However there were significant within-country differences in these responses. In Northern Ireland there was a big difference between the views of younger and older students that “'violence is never necessary”, with 74% of the younger group agreeing and strongly agreeing, compared with only 49% of the older group. In India there was a smaller difference between the two age cohorts, but still with the younger group agreeing more. In one Northern Ireland school, a “Protestant” rural grammar school located in an area of conflict over marching traditions, over 43% disagreed or disagreed strongly that “violence is never necessary.” In India more older than younger students were worried about violence now. In Northern Ireland there were marked gender and communal variations, with 44.4% of boys as against 9.5% of girls saying they were unworried by violence now. Whereas 59% of students in an all-boys “Protestant” school said they were not worried by violence none of the female students in an all-girl “Catholic” school were unworried.
ii More students think that people resort to force because they know they cannot persuade their opponents without it, than believe that people use weapons or violence because they think they are stronger. There were variations on this response. In Zimbabwe there were lower levels of agreement and strong agreement to the idea that “people who use weapons or violence do so because they think they are stronger”; it is possible that the Zimbabwe students felt that, in reality, those using weapons and violence thought they were really weaker, and these were a last resort. In Northern Ireland, the “Protestant” rural grammar school in an area of conflict produced the highest percentage disagreeing with the idea that people use violence because they could not persuade their opponents peacefully - 41% -, nearly three times the average disagreement from the other four Northern Ireland schools.
iii There was a high level of agreement that domestic violence is morally wrong, irrespective of who the victim or perpetrator of the violence might be, and that external intervention by friends and neighbours is justified. Action to prevent wife-beating and child abuse had more support than action to prevent the possibly rarer case of assaults on husbands. Intervention to prevent injury to a child had less support in India than elsewhere. Responses were thus:
% STRONGLY AGREE + AGREE TO INTERVENTION
iv The samples agreed that police are right to use “any necessary force” to stop a riot or the destruction of property. Strong agreement and agreement percentages were: Botswana 67 %, India 81 % (with more support among older and less among female students); Northern Ireland 64 % (with major differences according to school type, age and gender; far more males than females agreed to police use of force; more of the older age group disagreed; “Protestant” students were more comfortable than “Catholic” ones, and the greatest disagreement came from an integrated school for both communities, where 38.1 % disagreed and strongly disagreed); Zimbabwe 85.1 %.
v Bullying is the type of violence of which young people may have most knowledge, and there was a consensus that it is unacceptable. In Botswana, 67.5 % agreed and agreed strongly that bullying by anyone is wrong. In India, 82.4 % agreed and strongly agreed. In Northern Ireland there was a slight downward gradient in responses, with the greatest disapproval of children bullying other children (96.3 % concurrence), followed by disapproval of children being bullied by teachers (94.9 %) and children being bullied by parents (89.3 %); female pupils showed stronger disapproval of bullying than males in all cases. In Zimbabwe, 80.2 % agreed and strongly agreed that bullying from any quarter was unacceptable, although 14.6 % disagreed or strongly disagreed.
vi There is widespread ignorance of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by all four governments in the sample countries by the time of this inquiry9. In Botswana 43.5 % knew about the convention, while 49.5 % did not. In India 67.9 % knew, but 30.8 % did not. In Northern Ireland 93.5 % did not know, and only 6 % said they had heard about the convention in school10. In Zimbabwe only 53.2 % of the younger group and 51.6 % of the older group said they had been told about it in school.
In conclusion: Violence as an infringement of rights is of the greatest concern. Domestic violence and bullying are strongly disapproved of. When asked an open-ended question about what could be done to reduce violence in society the students' proposals mirrored those in adult society - a mixture of security and police measures on the one hand, with dialogue and non-violent negotiation on the other. The most remarkable finding is that a large number of youngsters have no knowledge of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, even though they may support some of its underlying concepts and are concerned about breaches. Article 42 of the convention says, “States Parties undertake to make the principles and provisions....widely known, by appropriate and active means, to adults and children alike.” Responses from Botswana and India reflected the strength of the family as an institution. In Northern Ireland, responses revealed significant communal and gender differences. In India and Zimbabwe, there was evidence of a progression in understanding between the two age groups.
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