4 March 2009 – The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has highlighted Jordan’s efforts to tackle violence against children in schools, a problem affecting over half of the country’s young people.
“A recent study shows that more than one half of children in Jordan experience physical violence in school,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman noted during her two-day visit to the country, which wrapped up yesterday.
“Violence against children in schools is unacceptable and should not be tolerated,” she added.
UNICEF is partnering with the Ministry of Education and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to tackle the issue of violence in schools through the Ma’an (Together) initiative.
The Family Protection department within the police is also responding to the problem of violence against children with a programme of early detection in public hospitals, a telephone help-line and a referral system through the Ministry of Social Development.
In addition, a wide-scale better parenting campaign is being conducted nationwide through the use of imams in mosques that targets mainly fathers and teaches them the principles of child care, respect, protection, and non-discrimination between girls and boys.
“The use of religious leaders and their moral authority in teaching principles of child rights to parents and families is an efficient way to reach out to the wider community. It is a powerful advocacy channel,” said Ms. Veneman.
Since the programme began in 2000, UNICEF has trained 600 imams in skills to train parents on proper child-rearing practices. Over 130,000 families have been trained on parenting skills.
During her trip, the first stop on a mission that will also take her to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, Ms. Veneman visited several schools, including one that takes part in the Madrasati (My School) initiative, which brings together the public and private sectors, as well as parents and the community in a collective effort to improve public school facilities and the standard of education throughout the country.
She also visited schools that have integrated Iraqi children currently in Jordan. According to the Ministry of Education, there are 26,800 Iraqi children in school across Jordan, which has hosted Palestinian refugees since 1948.
Ms. Veneman also met with Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah, who is UNICEF’s Eminent Advocate for Children, and a number of other officials.