About the Author(s)

Misheck Samakao Email symbol
Dean of Students Affairs, Kwame Nkrumah University, Kabwe, Zambia

Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Hellen Manda symbol
Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Department of Education Psychology, Faculty of Education, Kwame Nkrumah University, Zambia


Samakao, M. & Manda, H., 2023, ‘Effects of gender-based violence on students’ well-being: A case of Mufulira College’, HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 79(3), a8492. https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v79i3.8492

Note: Special Collection: O3 Plus, sub-edited by Munatsi Shoko, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Research Project Registration:

Project Leader: A.G. van Aarde

Project Number: 2334682

Description: This research is part of the research project, ‘Biblical Theology and Hermeneutics’, directed by Prof. Dr Andries van Aarde, Post Retirement Professor and Senior Research Fellow in the Dean’s Office, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria.

Original Research

Effects of gender-based violence on students’ well-being: A case of Mufulira College

Misheck Samakao, Hellen Manda

Received: 25 Jan. 2023; Accepted: 22 Apr. 2023; Published: 04 July 2023

Copyright: © 2023. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Institutions of higher learning have continued to record high cases of gender-based violence (GBV) despite all efforts put in place to fight the vice. The most common forms of GBV are physical, sexual assault and psychological violence. Women and girls make up the majority of the GBV victims worldwide. For many years, institutions of higher learning have proved to be fertile environments for GBV cases.

The purpose of this study was to investigate effects of GBV on the well-being of students in institutions of higher learning in Zambia.

The study employed a mixed research methodology, and it was anchored on pragmatic philosophical paradigm. An explorative study design was used. Data were collected using both probabilistic and non-probabilistic methods, and the sample size was 150 respondents. The main findings of the study showed both academic and non-academic effects of GBV on students and included stigma, low academic performance, mental and psychological trauma as well as high drop outs.

Contribution: The study highlighted effects of GBV as being both academic and non-academic in nature. Once students and staff ignore the word of God spoken in scriptures and begin to follow their egos, the consequences are devastating. For scriptures says love one another, forgive each other and bear each other’s burdens in love. Do unto others as you would want then to do unto you. For where there is love, no one will desire to hurt others. Where there is no love of God or forgiveness, there is pain and damage that can spoil someone’s future, especially that of the youth.

Keywords: GBV; sexuality; student well-being; students’ health; comprehensive sexual and reproductive health; effects of GBV; academic and non-academic effects.


Ideally, society is expected to be grounded on the solid values of equity and equality. The higher institutions of learning are expected to equally pioneer, uphold and sustain tenets of high moral fabrics. This is partly because institutions of higher learning are among the most informed section of society with high levels of civilisation and knowledge endowments. The Bible declares that all are children of God based on their faith in Jesus Christ. For him ‘there are neither Jew nor gentiles, neither bound nor free, neither male nor female. For all are one in Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 3:28). This means that a man and woman are both expected to be treated equally in society. Once this biblical fundamental is violated, it brings chaos in society. Gender-based violence (GBV) has been perpetuated mainly as a result of societal failure to accept and embrace common values of equity and equality as advocated by the word of God in scriptures.

Zambia has been reported as having one of the highest rates of sexual and GBV in the world, with 43% of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 49 having experienced some form of sexual violence. Cases of GBV in Zambia had been on the rise. In 2019, a total of 25 121 cases of GBV were reported compared to the 22 073 cases reported in 2018. The reported cases showed an increase of 3048 cases, representing 14%. In 2020, a total of 26 370 cases were reported from 01 January to 31 December, 2020, representing a 5% increase. In the 4th quarter of 2022, Zambia recorded a total of 10 241 cases of GBV compared with 7920 cases during the same period in 2021 representing an increase of 2321 cases (GRZ 2023).

Pursuant to the Zambian Anti-GBV Act, No. 1 of 2011, GBV could be defined as any act that resulted in or was likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to a person, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life (GRZ 2011).

The Sustainable Development Goal Number 5 of the United Nations aims at eliminating all forms of violence against all women and girls in public and private spheres, including trafficking, sexual and other types of exploitation (UNDP 2020).

As Zambia joins the rest of the world in its progressive efforts towards achieving gender equality, promoting equal access to education is seen to be one of the most effective ways of realising this dream; yet, GBV has predominantly been identified as one of the major setbacks in achieving this dream in many learning institutions. Research has shown that in every higher learning institution students have experienced violence in some form (Sundaram 2022). Gender-based violence takes several forms, and its effects are not limited to women and girls alone, but boys and men are also victims (Sharland & Freely 2019).

Gender-based violence may be described as violence that is directed to an individual based on his or her biological sex or gender identity. According to the Oxford Dictionary, violence is defined as any behaviour involving physical or emotional force, coercion or manipulations intended to hurt, damage or kill someone or something. Gender-based violence is a universal reality existing in all societies regardless of income, class and culture. Furthermore, school-related GBV (SRGBV) is defined as acts or threats of physical, sexual or psychological violence or abuse that are based on gendered stereotypes or that target students on the basis of their sex, sexuality or gender identities. School-related GBV reinforces gender roles and perpetuates gender inequalities. It includes rape, unwanted sexual touching, unwanted sexual comments, corporal punishment, bullying and other forms of non-sexual intimidation or abuse such as verbal harassment or exploitative labour in schools. Unequal power relations between adults and children and males and females contribute to this violence that can take place in formal and non-formal schools, on school grounds, going to and from school, in school dormitories, in cyberspace or through cell phones. School-related GBV may be perpetrated by teachers, students or community members. Both girls and boys can be victims as well as perpetrators (RTI International 2016).

Conceptual framework

A conceptual framework is a useful tool that can be used to show relationships and linkages in order to give a better understanding of the phenomenon under investigation (Baxton & Jack 2008). Keeping this in mind, we can therefore indicate that the themes in this study have been put together to build an integrated conceptual framework work (Figure 1).

FIGURE 1: Conceptual framework.

The causes of GBV are many and interconnected. These prevailing factors ranging from community, individual values, misconceptions and religious ethos are all brought to the university community by students who come from different backgrounds and cultural ethnicities. Once they find that the university community does not have a firm policy framework that can regulate behaviour, the students begin to indulge in discordant behaviour. The majority of the victims are women and girls. Students exhibit GBV behavioural tendencies in a university environment where GBV regulations are weak or are absent (Cardey 2010). The common forms of GBV that are prevalent include sexual abuse, stigma, emotional and psychological abuse.

The results of GBV on campus are absenteeism, low academic performance, low self-esteem, mental trauma, depression and psychological stress. There is a need to implement a stable policy framework and stricter students’ rules that can consistently fight GBV cases on campus (Rajan & Krishnan 2002). When the rules are enforced and consistent, they tend to help regulate students’ conduct and behaviour both in the short and long term.

Aims and objectives

  • To establish major forms of GBV against students in higher learning institutions.
  • To determine the effects of GBV on student well-being in higher learning institutions.
  • To recommend mitigating measures that aim to address negative effects of GBV on the well-being of students in higher institutions of learning.

Literature reviews

The foundation of a healthy society

‘Be completely humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another in love. In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. But do this with gentleness and respect. Do unto others as you would like them to do unto you. Do not let any loose talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for supporting others according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ forgave you. For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. These are values and virtues that govern a healthy society as revealed from the word of God in the holy scriptures’ (Ephesians 4:2).

Sexual assaults cases in institutions of higher learning are common

The 21st century has witnessed a surge in attention towards the issue of sexual assault in higher education (Bolger 2016). Campus rape has become the subject of new legislation, dominating news headlines as the cases are ever increasing (Baker 2017; Beaver 2017; Bolger 2016; WHO 2021). Being largely neglected in this growing national conversation is one critical reality of escalating GBV, which comes with irreparable costs. These costs constitute a gender-based barrier to student victims’ educational access, one that implicates the equality mandate at the heart of the vice. This new reality has triggered these financial harms to the educational system thereby creating new barriers to women and girls and other student survivors. It is further, argued that if one hopes to guarantee gender equity in education, it must be understood from the correct perspectives that would allow for recovery of costs attributable to this discrimination and damage (Ford 2017). Yet while the administrative agency tasked with enforcement has long recognised schools’ obligations to do just that, the agency has actually struggled in practice to enforce them.

Beaver (2017) posits that sexual assault in the campus is a commonplace and serious threat and a problem for academia in the modern times both in the narrow and broad perspectives. Globally, national government administrations have implemented a series of policies that are putatively designed to lessen sexual assault and all negative forms of practices associated with GBV activities.

Anderson (2016) has further argued that in order to manage cases of sexual discrimination and all related GBV incidents in education, colleges and universities should be more organised. In addition, colleges and universities must respond promptly and equitably to allegations of campus sexual assaults. Furthermore, they must adopt affirmative consent rules, a standard higher than most state criminal codes have in order to govern sexual activity on campus. These progressive changes once implemented consistently and effectively have the potential to lead to more positive results in the fight against GBV in schools.

The majority of gender-based violence victims are female

A study was conducted in South Africa among 1350 students and staff to establish the levels of GBV and its effects on students and staff. A survey methodological approach was used. The findings of the study showed that the prevalence of GBV was very high, and the majority of the cases went unreported. Female students were the main victims of GBV. Male students were the main perpetrators of the vice while very low cases were reported among the members of staff with regard to sexual harassments. Further the study indicated that amongst the victims of the GBV fear was the main effect. Additionally, the research revealed that women who had these experiences were more rejecting of rape myths than women who had not had such experiences. The opposite was found for white men who had experienced GBV testified to that effect (Htun & Jensenius 2020).


The study used mixed methods research involving both qualitative and quantitative research design. Pragmatism research paradigm was used as it provides flexibility for both in-depth and broad findings (Lindsay 2016). Pragmatism is pluralistic in nature and allows a use of combination of both numeric and non-numerical data (Cresswell & Plano Clark 2011). Quantitative data were collected using questionnaires involving a sample comprising 150 respondents who were selected using a simple random technique. Qualitative data were collected using focused group discussions, systematic observations and interview guide. A statistical package software called SPSS was used to analyse quantitative data while thematic analysis was used to analyse qualitative data.

The Convergent Parallel Mixed-Methods Design used allowed data sets to be collected concurrently, and analysed independently using quantitative and qualitative analytical approaches (Schoonenboom & Johnson 2017).



‘And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God saw all that he had created and behold it was very good’ (Genesis 1:26-28 KJV).

In the beginning, all was beautiful and perfect. Man had no struggles with issues of being either male or female. They lived in perfect harmony, but the picture today has drastically changed as can be seen in the following findings.

Forms of gender-based violence in higher institutions of learning

The pie chart shown in Figure 2 shows the main forms of GBV as indicated by the respondents in the higher institution of learning.

FIGURE 2: Forms of gender-based violence cases.

From the pie chart below, the common forms of GBV on campus include psychological violence (19%), sexual harassments (12%), emotional abuse (18%), sexual abuse (16%), physical abuse (20%) and neglect (15%). The chart shows that physical abuse, psychological violence and emotional abuse are the most prevalent forms of GBV on campus.

Effects of gender-based violence on students’ well-being in higher learning institutions

The graph in Figure 3 indicates several effects of GBV on students’ academic, social, mental and physical being. Students’ responses were captured and recorded graphically.

FIGURE 3: Effects of gender-based violence on students’ well-being.

From the graph on Figure 3 it can be seen that the effects of GBV on students’ well-being included low academic performance (30%) absenteeism (12%), low self-esteem (45%), high drop outs (7%), stigma (18%), mental trauma (38%). From the data shown above, mental trauma, low self-esteem and low academic performances showed the highest as effects of GBV on students’ lives.

Measures that can be put in place to mitigate effects of gender-based violence cases among the students

When students were interviewed further, the findings showed that the recommendations made to help mitigate and prevent the effects of GBV on students’ well-being included the creation of student’s associations on GBV, creation of GBV counselling centres, integration of GBV in the school curriculum, creation of systematic awareness campaign on campus and formulation of new students’ rules addressing GBV issues. The majority of the respondents indicated that apart from the on-going campaigns, there was a need to intensify and scale up the levels of engagements in order to attain high-impact results.


For you have put the traditions of men above the word of God. So the word of has no effect because of traditions and customs of man. ‘There is neither male nor female but you are all one in Jesus Christ’ (Galatians 3:28). Typically, in the African traditions, men are perceived to be more important than women. These values are embedded in society over generations. This makes the majority of the young people to resort to violent behaviour against women whenever they differ contrary to the commands of the word of God as revealed in scripture. ‘Come unto me all you that labour and are heavy laden and I shall give you rest’ (Matthew 11:28-30) declares the Bible. God Almighty through His son Jesus Christ gives rest from all burdens of life including GBV.

Majority of gender-based violence victims are female

The study presented the most common forms of GBV that included sexual, physical, emotional and psychological abuses, mainly being perpetrated between males and female counterparts and also between students and staff. It was revealed that larger number of cases of GBV in higher learning institutions occur in student boarding facilities more often than on the campus. Students who live in the private boarding houses away from the university enjoy some levels of personal privacy. However, it is in these same environments that high cases of GBV are reported. In most cases, GBV takes place between two students. Sometimes nevertheless, it could also involve a non-student or even staff. However, though females generally comprise the majority of GBV victims, male counterparts are sometimes also victims of this vice.

Gender-based violence cases are high on campus

Technically, this study indicated that cases of GBV on the campus are indeed high. Nearly, one out of every three students had suffered from one form of GBV or the other at least during the period of their stay on the campus. The findings of this study are consistent with other studies conducted elsewhere (Peterson & Ortiz 2016; Saha & Saha 2017; Kanan 2002). Nevertheless, it appears that despite recording high cases of GBV, the studies have continued to show that institutions of higher learning have struggled to deal with these cases (Brink et al. 2021; Carmody 2020; Ford 2017; Htun & Jensenius 2020; WHO 2021). In fact, Kwestel and Milano (2020) argue that out of every six cases of GBV, only one is reported and of all the reported cases, institutions of higher learning have not proactively dealt with them in an efficient and effective manner as expected. Brink et al. (2021) and Nanthini & Nair (2020) have consistently indicated that most institutions of higher learning have demonstrated high levels of indifferences to cases of GBV on campus. This being the case, Htun and Jensenius (2020) have retaliated that because of the laxity and lack of action on the part of the institutions of higher learning to holistically deal with cases of GBV, the central government has been compelled to interfere in the handling the cases of GBV in the campus when in the actual sense it should have been the learning institutions themselves that should have eradicated these cases.

Non-academic effects of gender-based violence

The study has established that GBV causes mental and psychological trauma for students. The majority of the students who were interviewed indicated that they suffered from mental and psychological effects of GBV. What differed, however, was the degree to which each student was affected. These findings are consistent with other related studies conducted in different parts of the world (Hagemann-White & Meysen 2019; Guidorzi & Cannon 2020; Nanthini & Nair 2020). It must be observed that both mental and psychological effects of GBV often lead to other related medical complications such as depression that might cause death or escalation of some mental disorders. This finding is consistent with the results of another study that was conducted by Gelaye et al. (2009) where it was argued that students who reported experience of any GBV were nearly twice as likely to be classified as having moderate depression during the academic year. In extreme cases, this could lead to suicidal cases among the victims of GBV. Furthermore, compared with non-abused students, those who had experienced both physical and sexual abuse were four times more likely to report either moderately severe or severe depressive symptoms.

Academic effects of gender-based violence

Further, the study showed a record of poor academic performance among students who suffered from GBV. The aftereffects of GBV among students caused a huge disturbance in their academic lives. Most students lost concentration in their studies, and as such, contributed to poor academic performance even in cases where counselling was being conducted.

The study further observed that there were cases of students dropping out of school after suffering from GBV especially those that reported to have suffered from physical and sexual abuse. The negative pressure that is associated with stigma in higher institutions of learning makes it very difficult for most victims of GBV to heal. As a result, the majority of GBV victims opt to withdraw from their studies while others opt for transfers.

Prior to withdrawing from their studies, most students were reported to have absconded from classes repeatedly. The high levels of absenteeism were later followed by withdrawals from studies even in cases where adequate counselling had been conducted. The magnitude of the damage caused by GBV among the student goes deep to the levels where students develop low self-esteem, a sense of self-rejection as well as self-denial that often lead to self-isolation. In some cases, this scenario might cause students to go into depression, and in some extreme cases, some students might resort to committing suicide. Many studies have shown that suicide cases are very common in higher institutions of learning. Empirical information has further shown major causes of suicide cases in higher institutions of learning are complex and are mainly associated with GBV (Amporfu et al. 2020; Anderson 2016; Arnold et al. 2008; Gordon & Collins 2013; WHO 2021). These findings are therefore in agreement with the works of Guidorzi and Cannon (2020) who established the fact that students who suffer from GBV exhibit characteristics of low self-esteem, struggle to socialise or develop strong relationships in society. The difficulties that they face force them either to drop out of school or end up with poor academic performance.

Measures to mitigate the effects of gender-based violence among students

Currently, the university has no GBV policy in place. There is only a staff code of conduct that guides the behaviors of staff during their execution of duty. Besides, there are only general student’s rules in place that stipulate the general guidelines on behaviour. However, with regard to GBV in particular, there are no systems, programs and policy guidelines.

In order to effectively address GBV cases, there is a need to put in place gender policy guidelines. This will help to comprehensively harmonise all efforts required to fight GBV on campus. This has very little or no impact in regulating students conduct in relation to GBV. However, once a policy framework is introduced, there will be specific strategies, programs and activities designed to address GBV cases in a systematic and consistent manner.


Institutions of higher learning have continued to record high numbers of GBV cases among students. Gender-based violence has both academic and non-academic effects on the well-being of students though little attention has been given to this area of concern. The common effects of GBV among students include low academic performances, high numbers of students drop outs, stigma, mental and psychological effects. There is a need to develop GBV policy, rigid rules and regulations to address the challenges posed by GBV.


The author wishes to recognise Professor Vongai Zvidenga Nyawo who supervised this work, Ms Hellen Manda his co-author and UNESCO who funded my article. The author’s home university, Kwame Nkrumah University, gave him full support in terms of time. The author expresses thanks to his family, Debora, my wife; Kisu, my son and Hope, my daughter for all the support throughout the study stages.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced them in writing this article.

Authors’ contributions

S.M., was a principal author for this work and engineered the idea and the research work and spearheaded all the crucial areas. H.M., was the co-author who contributed in the data analysis, data collection, recommendation of the study and abstract work.

Ethical considerations

Kwame Nkrumah University research and Ethics Committee PO BOX 80404 Kabwe – KNU/2022REC09/012.

Funding information

The research received no single funding from any agency but personal resources from the authors helped to co-finance all the expenses incurred in this study.

Data availability

This data is available to all interested community users for the purpose of learning, policy making and drawing up strategies to combat the GBV cases and HIV/AIDS pandemic.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any affiliated agency of the authors.


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