Sexual abuse in the home, community among students’ concerns

Sexual abuse in the home and community was among the pressing issues students reported during counselling with National Substance Abuse Advisory Council (NSAAC) when schools reopened, Fiji’s Minister for Education Premila Kumar told the Fijian Parliament today.

Responding to a question raised in parliament regarding counselling provided to students during the pandemic, Kumar said there were also mental health issues, with some students going to the extent of inflicting self-harm as a way of coping with the negative emotions caused by the trauma they experienced.

“Students reported challenges they faced from their own families such as abuse, neglect, breakup, or relocation,” Kumar said.

“Students using drugs in the school compound, and this was reported when I visited more than 70 schools. During this period, students displayed violent behavior in school some students were cyberbullied by other students on social media using vulgar words and sex related clips. Teenage pregnancy also increased during the lockdown.”

All child abuse cases, Kumar said were referred to social welfare. NSAAC then did follow-ups to ensure the safety and welfare of students were not compromised.

Since the first week of November 2021 when schools reopened for face-to-face classes, nearly 300 students were provided counselling. This year alone, in less than three months between 4 January and 31 March, 235 students were provided counselling – equating to 74 per cent of total students counselled for the whole of 2021.

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