Teachers can make a substantial difference to the lives of children who have been abused, by creating a safe, welcoming environment in the classroom.
Childline South Africa, a non-profit organisation that works to protect children from violence, believes that teachers need to understand how best to support children who have been abused, given the amount of time they spend with them in the school environment.
Childline said teachers should give abused children extra attention but not so obviously that other learners feel the child is being favoured. It also advised that a child-centred approach should be adopted to assure the child that the teacher is available whenever they need to discuss a problem with someone.
Childline suggests making all children aware of the following rules:
- Your body belongs to you and you have the right not to be abused.
- Sexual abuse is never your fault. Nothing a child does or doesn’t do excuses an older person who uses a child for sexual pleasures.
- Sexual abuse is harmful. The deepest hurt is the way the sexual abuse makes certain children feel about themselves.
- Good people can do bad things. Abusers may be good people in other ways, but the abuse is very wrong and must be stopped.
- Usually sexual abuse does not stop by itself. Tell an adult who will listen and do something about it.
- Keep telling people you trust about the sexual abuse until someone listens.
- What happens to a sexual abuser is never your fault.
During lessons, teachers must make opportunities for the abused child to draw and do creative work. “This will help them to express their inner feelings,” Childline said.
It said initiatives such as group activities are very helpful in getting abused children to stop isolating themselves.
An important rule, according to the organisation, is to never tell the class what the child may have told you, as they will lose their trust in you.
If you think the child is in immediate danger, call the appropriate authorities.
Childline said teachers should look out for signs of tiredness and lifelessness.
“The abused child may be a restless sleeper who tosses and may have nightmares,” it said, adding that educators need to gently re-focus the child if they notice the child daydreaming and not paying attention in class.
This information was supplied by Childline South Africa.