Globally, childhood is regarded as a period of sensitivity requiring special attention, care and protection. In the traditional African context, children were not allowed to listen to adults’ conversations let alone, make comment or contributions.
The problem of child abuse has long been existing in Nigeria, and have even become more even devastating to the society as a whole. That history of child abuse in Esan West Local Government Area of Edo State is as old as the persistence of the phenomenon in Nigeria itself cannot be overemphasized.
Likewise, in this present day, children in Bayelsa are abused, abandoned, discarded without any fault of theirs. The world around them is mostly devoid of every trace of filial love and robs them of all the appurtenances of good living, which their privileged counterparts often take for granted. The resultant effect on abused children is depression from shame, poor sleep patterns of health problem, psychosocial dysfunctions, low self-esteem, food insecurity, parental depression, severe brain damage, extremely violent behavior, attention disorder, poor peer relations (Kurtz, Gauctin, Wodciarski, Houting, 1993). Children suffered all forms of abuse ranging from child battering, child labor, child abandonment, neglect, teenage prostitution, early marriage and forced marriage. And in most cases, the parents are even at the center of the root cause of all these social maltreatment.
The school though, as an agent of socialization portends to have a strong and overwhelming influence on the development of the child, but observation has shown that the essence of education could probably be defeated if the children are made to continually suffer the pains of child labor (Martins E.O. 2010). This study, however, centers on the extent to which the school has been involved in its attempt to develop the child within the social context of child abuse. And It is in the light of these, that the study attempts to unravel the major causes of child abuse and how it affects the child’s educational performance.
Child abuse and neglect are fastly becoming universal phenomena in the current world societies despite the fact the child’s rights are being recognized and even to some extent, protected by legislation and constitutions in many countries of the world. Childhood abuse potentially has major economic implications for Nigerian schools and for their students. Even conservative estimates suggest that at least 8 percent of U.S. children experience sexual abuse before age 18, while 17 percent experience physical abuse and 18 percent experience physical neglect (Flisher, Kramer, Hoven, & Greenwald, 2007). Childhood maltreatment, and adverse parenting practices, in general, has the potential to delay the academic progress of students (Shonk & Cicchetti, 2001). It, therefore, has the potential to undermine schools’ ability to satisfy standards of school progress entailed in the No Child Left Behind legislation (U.S. Department of Education, 2005), putting them at risk for loss of federal funding. It also has the potential to adversely affect students’ economic outcomes in adulthood, via its impact on achievement in middle and high school (Cawley, Heckman, & Vytlacil, 2001).
Child abuse has been defined by the African network for the prevention and protection against Child Abuse and Neglect (ANPPCAN) as the intentional and unintentional acts which endanger the physical, health, emotional, moral and the educational welfare of the child. Hopper (2004) also described child abuse as an act of maltreatment or subjection that endangers a child’s physical, emotional and health development.
Gelles, (2007) affirmed that child abuse includes not only physical assault but also malnourishment, abandonment, neglect, emotional abuse and sexual abuse. According to Mba (2002), a prominent form of child abuse in Nigeria is child battering, child labor, child abandonment, neglect, teenage prostitution, early marriage and forced marriage. Kolander (2000) stated that emotional and sexual abuses are highly noticeable in Nigeria. Oji (2006) observed that babies born to teenage mothers in Nigeria were 625,024 as at the reporting time. According to Walsh (2005), unwanted pregnancy has been identified to be a major cause of child abuse in Nigeria. Many abused children were unwanted in the first place and turned out to be a severe burden on their emotionally immature or impoverished parents. Odey (2003) stated that children from poor homes are more vulnerable to abuse and Todd,(2004) in his support said that Nigeria, which is are known a corrupt nation in Africa is heading towards a dangerous poverty where her teeming population does not have enough food for healthy living. Oluwole (2002) equally lamented when analyzing the situation of children which are being used for house helps.
The current state of evidence for a link between childhood maltreatment (physical and sexual abuse or neglect) and school performance is limited to negative associations between maltreatment and school performance. On average, children who are abused receive lower ratings of performance from their school teachers, score lower on cognitive assessments and standardized tests of academic achievement, obtain lower grades, and get suspended from school and retained in grade more frequently (Erickson, Egeland, & Pianta, 2003). Abused children are also prone to difficulty in forming new relationships with peers and adults and in adapting to norms of social behavior (Shields, Cicchetti, and Ryan, 2004). Although these examples of negative associations between child abuse and school performance are suggestive of causal effects, they could be spuriously driven by unmeasured factors in families or neighborhoods that are themselves correlated with worse academic outcomes among children (Todd and Wolpin, 2003)
Children that have been victimized by one form of abuse exhibit some behaviors different from others, they perform less than their classmates. There is always a lack of trust because they have been disappointed and abused by those they ought to be defense, security, trust in some cases and this leads to changes in behavior such as emotional pain, poor academic performance, poor social relation rebellious act
Prevention is better than cure, sex education should be encouraged in schools and parents should be observant of their children’s behavior like begging for food, being left alone or changes in their academic behavior. Teachers and school authorities should take note of behavioral changes in their students any drop in academic performance should not be neglected and reported to parents they should be friendly and free with their students. Students self-esteem, morale should also be developed. Any teacher or students seen as a threat should be sent away from the school and extracurricular activities should be organized in schools to help foster relationship with others. Support and interest should be given to abused children and their parents should give listening ears.