Learning to be Violent: the role of the School in Developing adolescent gendered behaviour

Leach, Fiona (2003) Learning to be Violent: the role of the School in Developing adolescent gendered behaviour. Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, 33 (3). pp. 385-400. ISSN 0305-7925

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This paper examines the role of the school, and of the peer group culture in particular, in constructing male and female identity among adolescents within the context of high levels of gender violence. It draws on a DfID-funded study into the abuse of girls in schools in three African countries (Zimbabwe, Malawi and Ghana). This study documents incidents of male teachers and older male pupils aggressively propositioning female pupils for sex, 'sugar daddies' preying on schoolgirls in the vicinity of the school, and generally high levels of corporal punishment and bullying. The abusive behaviour of boys towards girls (and also towards younger or more vulnerable boys) in school is in part the product of a peer culture which stresses male competition and sexual prowess as part of the process of learning to 'be a man'. Alongside other studies (Wood & Jewkes, 1998; Leach & Machakanja, 2000; Human Rights Watch, 2001) it reveals a worrying sexual socialisation process in which male violence is accepted as the norm in adolescent relationships while obedience and tolerance continue to be expected of girls. This can lead to aggressive male behaviour being normalised and perpetuated in adulthood. Schools and education authorities are guilty of contributing to this socialisation as long as they fail to take vigorous measures to stamp out all forms of violent behaviour and to actively promote constructive adolescent relationships. Lessons can be learnt from those few innovative programmes with adolescents which provide genuine examples of the promotion of equal gender relations, personal responsibility, respect for others and cooperation between individuals. It is part of the school's mission not just to foster academic learning but to teach life skills which include supporting adolescents in developing constructive relationships.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Depositing User: Fiona Elizabeth Leach
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 18:40
Last Modified: 29 May 2012 08:48
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/17682
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