Report highlights a culture of violence and abuse against children in Tonga
A Loughborough-led study aimed at investigating the experiences of children in Tonga has uncovered systemic and cultural abuse and mistreatment of children in families and schools.
The 78-page report authored by Professor Jo Aldridge highlights some of the routine violence, verbal abuse and commonplace ‘punishments’ experienced by six-to-17-year-olds across the Polynesian islands.
On Monday (29), Tonga’s Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva unveiled the findings, which described children being hit with planks of wood and sticks, whipped, denied food and forced to carry out tasks, as a form of discipline, by teachers and close family members.
It revealed that children with disabilities were also likely to experience everyday abuse which is framed as punishment or discipline, both at home and at school.
Professor Aldridge’s report highlighted the abuse as a traditional, or handed down, part of Tongan culture, which many youngsters accepted as part of their lives – even though in many cases it caused them misery.
Her findings included the testimonies of numerous school-aged children, as well as their parents, grandparents and teachers, and the experiences they all shared when it came to receiving and administering discipline.
She said: “This research is very important because too many children in Tonga, including children with disabilities, suffer violence and abuse both in the home and at school.
“The messages from this research should be used to help transform children’s lives.
“Hopefully, new policies and practices can be introduced that protect children from harm and help them to live safe and happy lives.”
Despite the negative experiences, some youngsters reported family life as good and enjoyable and spoke about parents with love and affection.
Similarly, mothers and fathers were aware that harsh discipline practices were wrong, but poverty and hardship contributed to anxiety and stress which often also manifested itself as domestic violence.
The report offered a number of recommendations to the Tongan government and organisations which work with children about how it can bring an end to violence against children.
• Developing and implementing a risk and protective factor framework in order to assess the short- and long-term impact of children’s exposure to violence in families and schools.
• New national policies and laws to address child abuse, based on the principles set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
• Better health and social care services that include the provision of parenting support.
• Improvements in education services – for example, greater awareness in schools and among school staff that physically abusing pupils is against the law.
• Consulting children and young people to ensure that their views are included in any decision-making and policy-making
• A national survey of schools to examine awareness and understanding among school staff of abuse issues and to collate statistical evidence on the prevalence of abuse in schools – the views of pupils should also be included in the survey.
The study was carried out in partnership with charity Ma’a Fafine mo e Famili (For Women and Families) and in partnership with the disability organisation Naunau ‘o ‘Alamaite Tonga (NATA).
The study was funded by the European Research Council.
Notes for editors
Press release reference number: 18/143
Loughborough University is equipped with a live in-house broadcast unit via the Globelynx network. To arrange an interview with one of our experts please contact the press office on 01509 223491. Bookings can be made online via www.globelynx.com
Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.
It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2018 QS World University Rankings, top in the country for its student experience in the 2018 THE Student Experience Survey and named University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019 and the Whatuni Student Choice Awards 2018.
Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2019, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2019 and 7th in The UK Complete University Guide 2019. It was also named Sports University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2017.
Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.
The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities.
It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.