The children’s charity, Plan UK, has helped the Hornsey School For Girls to develop special class discussions to teach girls how forced and early marriage can cut short their education, the Hornsey Journal reports. The program is the first of its kind in the UK to directly address school children. For many at-risk girls, school is the only place where they will have access to information about the potential harmful consequences of cultural practices in their families and ethnic communities, and the availability of protective resources for girls who wish to avoid or escape nonconsensual marriage. According to the school’s head of citizenship, Michelle Lambert, students aren’t the only ones getting schooled on forced and early marriage:
It’s heightened my awareness on the issue of forced marriage. In the past, if a girl had left school, I wouldn’t have been aware that forced marriage might be an issue, but having this resource will surely help identify a case. I’ve been a teacher for 20 years and there have been cases where girls have left, maybe for good reasons, but now with more awareness of forced marriage I’m encouraged to look into such cases more.
School holidays are considered the most dangerous time of the year for girls at risk of forced and early marriage. The education pack – geared for students aged eleven and older – includes a DVD acted and voiced-over by members of the National Youth Theatre. Although the initiative has generated some controversy because of the innate tension between respecting families’ cultural traditions and protecting individual students, thousands of other UK schools are expected to follow Hornsey’s lead.