Child safety rules are in place, but implementation lags
Farheen Hussain, Bengaluru, DH News Service, Sep 24 2017, 1:26 IST
Not long ago, parents would remain worry-free as their children left for schools early in the morning and returned late in the afternoon. But today, they are tormented by worrying thoughts about the safe return of their young ones. They are unnerved by the recent cases of child abuse and deaths reported from schools across the country.
Although there are several rules and guidelines in place to ensure children’s safety in schools, the episodes of sexual assault and murder indicate a lack of seriousness among the authorities. Speaking to parents across Bengaluru, DH brings into focus their serious concerns that remain unaddressed.
The biggest problem, according to parents, is not the lack of rules but ‘zero implementation.’ “We have all the rules and regulations in detail across schools, but practicality and implementation remain a big question. There is literally no authority to check the implementation of these guidelines. The CBSE board sends guidelines and circulars but what happens next? Nothing,” says Nibedita R, a homemaker and parent of two children.
Her children study in class four and LKG at a private school, where parents are not welcome. “Since there is no one to keep a check, why don’t they at least let parents in for an inspection? Of course, we won’t disturb the classes. But who is next best to ensure the safety of our kids? As far as the CCTVs are concerned, there is no guarantee that all of them work at any given point of time,” Nibedita says.
She, along with other parents, had complained about these gaps to the school authorities. “They ask us not to interfere,” she recalls. The matter had been taken up with CBSE authorities in Chennai. But the response was an excuse that they lacked manpower to form committees to look into these issues.
Another parent, Manjula Katgeri, who is also a retired Kendriya Vidyalaya teacher, believes the way forward is to include parents in the entire process. “There must be awareness and communication about the topic. During the daily morning assembly, the school principal, teachers, students and even parents should talk at least five minutes about safety issues,” she suggests.
Parents must also be allowed to play an active role. “When parents visit the schools to drop or pick-up their wards, they must be allowed to go up to the classrooms and know what is happening in the school at all times. There must be active communication between parents, teachers and students on a day-to-day basis,” says Katgeri.
This, she adds, is necessary to create an open environment for honest discussions about not just studies but other concerns as well. “There must be washrooms in every floor of a school and not in some dingy corner away from the main building. Such spots must be avoided.”
She cites schools in the United States where students are dropped at their doorsteps only if a parent is present and admissions are given to children living within a range of five kilometres from a school. “These positive examples can be followed in our schools as well,” she says.
Several reported cases of child abuse were found to have been committed by non-teaching staff, including bus drivers and conductors. Parents have been raising concerns about this trend. “One can’t stress enough on the point that no matter who is appointed, the track-record of the person must be verified. There must be a thorough police verification done,” says Mukunda S N, a businessman and father of two seven-year- olds studying in a city private school.
However, a professional teacher trainer, Anshima Gupta feels this culture of fear and misconduct is part of a bigger picture characterised by lack of awareness and sexual repression “In the long term, I feel the taboo on talking about sex and sexual repression in our country leads to instances such as these. We see this repression playing out in different places and ways. There needs to be openness about this topic,” Gupta points out.
She also recommends a separate committee that is solely focused on checking the behaviour of teachers, staff and students to address all threats to child safety. “Besides, one cannot completely alienate the male staff members as there have been cases where the female staff has been accused of sexual abuse. It needs a comprehensive and unbiased check,” Gupta notes.