Safety at school is a top concern for children in India: ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey finds out

Photo-caption (L-R): Mr. Geoffrey Petkovich, Regional Director Asia, ChildFund International; Ms. Meg Gardinier, Secretary General, ChildFund Alliance; His Excellency Nadir Patel, High Commissioner for Canada to India; Ms. Anne Goddard, President and CEO, ChildFund International and Ms. Neelam Makhijani, National Director, ChildFund India at the release of ChildFund’s ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ report in New Delhi.

Safety at school is a top concern for children in India: ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey finds out

Safety at school is a top concern for children in India: ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey finds out

Survey captures children’s views on education and safety in schools across 41 countries

Corporal punishment and bullying also among main concerns

Bangalore, February 9, 2017 – The international development group, ChildFund, released a global survey - ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ at a consultation on “Child-Friendly Accountability Methodology” here today. The event also saw the launch of “Child-Friendly Accountability” framework developed by ChildFund. This framework provides guidelines to help diverse stakeholders empower children to hold decision-makers accountable for ending violence against them. The event brought together leading voices from the government, the private sector, academia and NGOs, as well as children and youth, to discuss and share ways to collaborate.

The ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’  survey, that was released, captures children’s views on education and safety at school, in both developed and developing countries. The findings revealed that nearly one in three children in India have concerns about their safety at school.

The voices of more than 6,000 children aged between 10-12 years in 41 countries are captured in the survey. The participating countries included India, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Zambia amongst others. The findings highlighted striking similarities and differences between children in different parts of the world.

While children almost universally agree that education is important, a third of respondents in India (28%) said their school is only ‘sometimes’ safe (in line with the global finding of 31%) – citing deficient infrastructure and lack of toilets among their greatest concerns. Besides boundary walls, first aid facilities and toilets, children also spoke of corporal punishment and bullying, among their main concerns.

In developing countries, 21% of children said being safe at school means school buildings and facilities which are clean, safe and in good repair – with this response being highest amongst children surveyed in India (58%), Ethiopia (55%) and Bangladesh (54%).

Commenting on the results, Anne Lynam Goddard, President and CEO of ChildFund International, said, “The ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey is a part of our constant endeavour to understand the issues which matter to young minds and also gauge the areas of improvement from various authorities.  The survey reveals that many children are concerned about their personal safety at school which will prove to be an impediment in their overall development and growth. School should be an institution of constant learning and development without children having to worry about safety at their learning premises. ChildFund is committed to doing all we can to provide children around the world with a safe and quality education.”

In India, children defined safety at school as having a clean and safe building (58%), having proper preventive security measures in place (46%) – ranging from ‘out of bound’ areas, to protection from strangers, to supervision by teachers; while 23% of children described feeling safe as not being the target of physical or emotional abuse or violence, with many children referring to corporal punishment and ‘no bullying’.

Neelam Makhijani, National Director of ChildFund India, said, “This survey tells us that children in India are passionate about bringing in a more interactive approach to learning and subjects that would prepare them for real life, like technology. But it is alarming to know that safety in their institutions is a grey area. We can’t lose sight of the fact that every child has the right to learn in a safe environment and a collective intervention is our moral responsibility. We want to promote children’s participation in decision-making and our Child-Friendly Accountability framework is a step in this direction.”

According to the survey, children also have many ideas about how they would improve the education system in their country if they were in charge. In case of children in developing countries, their first priority would be building and improving school infrastructure (56%), followed by providing students with uniforms, books and stationery, and well-equipped classrooms (31%). Children in India are also interested in creating high quality learning environments, modernising class curriculums to widen the range of subjects available, and make learning more interactive and fun by including sports and creative arts, and greater student participation (28%).

Interestingly, children in India were equally concerned as their peers in developing countries about providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25%). More than a quarter of children in developing countries would also improve the quality of teaching through better pay, more staff and required training (27%).

About the Small Voices, Big Dreams Survey 

The seventh annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey was undertaken by the ChildFund Alliance in 2016. The survey was conducted in 41 countries with children aged 10 to 12. This included 31 developing nations in Africa, Asia and the Americas as well as 10 developed countries. A total of 6,226 children were surveyed – 3,658 children in developing countries and 2,568 children in developed nations.

Key findings at a glance

• Children almost universally said education is important to them (98%).
• One in three children globally (31%) said their school is not always a safe place. In India 28% felt unsafe or safe only sometimes.
• Almost two-thirds of children in developed countries (64%) said education is important ‘because it will allow me to get a good job when I grow up’ – compared to 40% of children in developing countries. 45% of respondents in India said so.
• In developing countries, 20% of children said school was important ‘because having an education will help me care for my parents’, compared to 6% of children in developed countries. In India, this figure was 21%.
• Almost half of children in developed countries (48%) said what they love most about school is ‘being with friends’, while the top response from children in developing countries (51%) was ‘learning new things’.
• Children in India were equally as concerned as their peers in developing countries about providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25%).

About ChildFund India

ChildFund India strives to ensure that deprived, excluded and vulnerable children have the capacity to improve their lives and become young adults, parents and leaders who inspire lasting and positive change in their communities. ChildFund India has been representing the voices of underserved children in India since 1951. It works in 61 districts across 15 states and one Union Territory. Through long-term partnerships with grassroots NGOs and direct implementation, it annually reaches over 2 million children, youth and their families in over 6000 communities/ villages.

ChildFund India is a local entity of ChildFund International, one of the world’s leading child development organizations that operates in 30 countries and reaches over 19.7 million children and their families globally, and a member of the ChildFund Alliance.

About ChildFund Alliance

ChildFund Alliance is a global network of 11 child-centred development organizations working in 63 countries to implement long-lasting and meaningful changes for millions of children and families living in poverty. Founded over 75 years ago, Alliance seeks to speak with one global voice for, with and on behalf of children. It helps an estimated 9 million children and their families to overcome poverty.