Research Project on Challenges for Girl Children
Child abuse has taken different forms and manifests it’s ugly head in sexual, physical, substance, kidnapping, verbal and neglect among other common various forms. Rituals that involve the disappearance and killings of young and adolescents and killings of young and adolescents children are rife in Zimbabwe and as such parents and to a larger extent, communication are on the alert regarding the perpetrators of the various forms of abuse, either by strangers or close relatives. The worst mind-boggling issue is that several cases of child mutilation, sexual and emotional abuse have been reported on electronic media as well as direct to the police by the victims themselves but surprisingly little has been done to relatively alert the impending social disaster. Parents and guardians leave in fear whenever they experience the various effects of sexual and alcohol abuse. The two areas have been extensively researched on, with heart-breaking effects such as deaths, prostitution, abortion, suicides and even labor abuses or exploitation. In Zimbabwe, due to the economic meltdown, parents and guardians have migrated to look for jobs abroad, leaving their grandparents and children in the custody of strangers, relatives, and caregivers who are not even professional child developers, let alone, their parenting styles which are questionable. Some families are child-headed hence the deplorable situation of family lawlessness and exposure as well as vulnerability to different forms of abuse. A general survey of the Chitungwiza Community had shown that adolescent girls children who are attending school encounter a lot of challenges which have resultingly led to poor academic performance at the secondary level. The adverse situation has tempted the formulation and exploration of the psychological effects experienced by the neglected girl children on their academic performance. The researcher intends to explore the subject matter through the examination of the background to the study, statement of the problem, research objectives and questions. The chapter further explores the significance of the study, assumptions as well as operational definitions of key terms.
Neglected adolescent girl children encounter a plethora of challenges as a result of being vulnerable to perpetrators of abuse. Neglect as a form of abuse is very salient in most societies yet it has devastating effects which are emotional, traumatic, and even physical. Most of these effects remain unidentified and unpronounced due to the fact that they mostly manifest themselves as coming from the major forms of abuse such as sexual abuse, physical abuse and verbal abuse among others, (The National Baseline Survey on Life Experiences of Adolescents, 2011). The different forms of abuse experienced by girl children show some great effects on their academic performance and these mostly remain unidentified not only by parents and friends but also by classmates and health practitioners. Recent research have reported an alarming rise on sexual and substance abuse by school-going, adolescent girls. Girl children abuse may, however, proffer distorted perceptions about the self, future and the world hich leads to isolation, mistrust and low self-esteem. (Bilups, 2015, Ellin, 2014). Such feelings and perceptions may aggregate into lifelong developments and challenges which may cripple the girl child’s academic performance. The results concur with the World Health Organisation. (WHO) 2014’s findings showed that the adolescence stage is characterized by crises, identity confusion and tumult. The World Health Organisation. (WHO) (2014) is quoted saying that girl children are reduced to useless and worthless beings by abuses as compared to their male counterparts who appear to have the ability to engage in some masculine activities for recovery. The National Baseline Survey on Life Experiences of Adolescents, (2011), reported that in Zimbabwe, almost one-third of females and one in ten males aged between 18-24 years are experiencing sexual violence at childhood. In present-day Zimbabwe, girl children are vulnerable to any orm of abuse as early as below (8)years. (Ibia, 2011). Some of the sexual abuses are as a result of conspiracy theories propounded by fake prophets, mangas and ritualists as well as traditional healers.
The United National Children’s Fund ( UNICEF) in collaboration with the Collaboration Centre for Operational Research and Evaluation (CCDRE), (2013) posits that, ‘Day in day out, children are abused one way or the other. The same organizations further contend that they also listen to so many abuses. While some scars of physical abuse may tell the story and the psychological experience of the victims may not be addressed at all, worse still the perpetrators. It is therefore the researcher’s observation that most adolescent girl children who are vulnerable to abuse face challenges or identity crises and worse still, some withdraw from school due to performance deterioration in class. Abuse manifests itself in different situations and circumstances such as in cultural and religious practices like the African Virginal Testing, Appeasing of the spirits (Europa ngozi), In-laws socialization (Chiramu), Child pledging (kuzvarira) and Prophetic naming (Kurosawa). (World Health Organisation, 1999). The same organization postulates that all such acts are meant to consider the welfare and relations of elders and they are centred upon immediate gratification at the expense of the girl child rights and emotions. Children especially girl children are treated as tools without emotions, feelings, and thoughts and devoid of decision-making. Therefore, such emotional abuse may lead to long term mental health and disorders as neglect ruins the cognitive processes which are the centre of all human activity.
UNICEF, (2003) indicated that in Sub- Sahara Africa, the member of girl children out of school each year has risen from 20 million in 1990 to 24 million in 2007. Girl child abuses greatly contributed to school withdrawal, and illiteracy by girl children. A report by UNESCO, (2000) showed that an estimated number of hundred (100) million of girls and women do not complete their education to an ordinary level and more than five hundred and forty-two (542) million women are illiterate due to inadequate or incomplete schooling.
At Chitungwiza, most parents and or guardians are working from abroad leaving most families to be child-headed or under the mentorship of a stranger or caretaker relatives who do not have that parental control over the children. a large number of girls are no longer attending school. Since the parents left their Zimbabwean homes, the family lifestyle drastically changed with most families experiencing lawlessness. The center of control neglected the children in an attempt to go abroad and fend for them. The children’s perception of their environment changed, yet adolescents encountered a plethora of challenges that left them with a full identity crisis. Their roles in the family, let alone society, had no one to explain. It was worse with the girl children who desperately needed the mother’s mentorship, especially at puberty and adolescence stages. The emergency of the deadly Coronavirus worsened the girl child’s rights as most of them fell pregnant, thus prematurely becoming mothers. Some eloped to nearby South Africa, Botswana and Namibia even during level 2 lockdown restrictions. Some aborted, some experienced miscarriages and worse still some died due to the fact that their parents neglected them, thus exposing them to all forms of abuse, hence the researcher’s interest in exposing the psychological effects of neglected adolescents girl children on academic performance with specific reference to cluster twenty (20) of Chitungwiza Secondary Schools.
Neglected adolescent girl children are exposed to negative effects on their academic performance. The effects of such a firm of abuse manifest themselves in many different ways like emotional, verbal, cognitive, social as well as physical. Some of the abuses and their effects are engrained in the cultural and religious benefits systems which in turn force adolescent girl children to withdraw from school due to performance deterioration and sudden behavior change. Child neglect has lifelong effects on adolescent girl children, especially on their academic performance.
The study intends to explore the psychological effects of girl child neglect as a form of abuse on academic performance in selected Chitungwiza schools.
Information pertaining to the different forms of abuse faced by adolescent girl children will be displayed thereby facilitating the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to draft a policy framework that addresses the plight of the girl children. As recently witnessed in Zimbabwe whereby the girl child despite being pregnant is allowed to continue with her education. Advocacy campaigns can also be initiated through the same ministry which are aiming at reducing the effects of child neglect by parents and guardians opting and emphasizing better children’s developmental life styles and care. The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education can also liase with the Ministry of Finance band Economic Development and other stakeholders to avail funds to pay for the neglected girl children who are orphans and or disabled yet they suffer the double tragedy of being vulnerable to abuse well.
This research will unvail the effects of child neglect of children on academic performance, yet the school’s Psychological Services and Special Needs Education will develop training programs and addresses the emotional, social, academic, and psychological effects experienced by adolescent girl children. The Schools Psychological services and Special Needs Education Department can also assist through other Non-Governmental Organisation like United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) by organizing workshops for neglected children who are still attending school or those who might have been victims of this abuse in order to equip them with the necessary life skills and or provide financial assistance for their education.
The study will provide information on the different forms of abuse that girl children ought to be aware of. This will help as the girl children will be aware of Social Welfare Services available at her disposal should she by any chance fall victim to child neglect or any other form of abuse. Also, the neglected girl children will learn of the various types of assistance in the form of the victim-friendly police, village health workers as well as the constituency member f parliament to report any form of abuse so that assistance could be availed quickly.
Different communities will benefit from this study as it will act as an advocacy tool in divulging various forms of abuse and their effects, be it short or long-term. An informed society is better equipped to save its social challenges and can survive through the acquisition of effective and suitable life skills. The various communities will also learn how to treat and socialize with neglected girl children thereby dealing with issues of stigmatization and discrimination which might be a burden to neglected girl children, which might in turn lead to isolation or withdrawal. Communities will also benefit on the dangers of child-headed families which are arguably spearheading the destruction of our social-cultural developmental fabric of adolescent girl children.
The psychological effects of child neglect on adolescent girl children will be spelt out clearly. This will enable the Judiciary System to effect appropriate punishment to perpetrators of abuse which are transformational prohibitive and deterrent enough. Any form of abuse to a child is life-threatening as it impacts negatively on both childhood and adulthood experiences.
This study will provide information on the psychological effects of child neglect and the related academic performance deterioration in class experienced by adolescent girl children after the abuse. Teachers will benefit from this study as they may be compelled to draft remedial programs for children who will be showing some deterioration symptoms in performance. Teachers might also seek the services of psychologists before they met out punishment to the child’s situation. Such information may also helping to create a conducive working environment between teacher and children, thereby avoiding the usually offensive terms applied by teachers such as, ‘lazy dull’ and ‘useless’ among others when labeling underperforming students.
The study is premised on the assumptions that:
Chitungwiza towy is located fifteen (15) kilometers south of Harare’s Central Business District. Marondera town is sixty (60) kilometers east of Chitungwiza and there is Beatrice on the Southern part.
This study will constitute of Adolescents girl children who have been exposed to child neglect abuse in Chitungwiza town. Guidance and Counselling teachers and Victim Friendly Police will also partake in this study. Chitungwiza townhouses close to approximately five (5) to eight (8) million people.
Apart from the qualitative methods to be applied in the study where results could be difficult to generate because of the small sample size, the emergency of COVID-19 which has brought about stringent lockdown restrictions which do not allow groupings and gatherings schools are also closing untimely and that the limitations challenges of accessing students and teachers.
The foregoing chapter explored the psychological effects of child neglect on academic performance by looking on the background of the study which reflected that there are different forms of abuse like sexual, verbal and emotional abuse with different effects on children, especially to the girl child. The major objective is to highlight the psychological effects on academic performance experienced by adolescent girl children. The study will incorporate neglected girl children, victim-friendly police and guidance and counseling teachers. The study is meant to benefit different ministries, communities and the neglected children themselves at various levels of assistance. The next chapter examines the available literature which is related to the current study.
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