Orchids incident turns focus on BEOs' functioning

Orchids incident turns focus on BEOs' functioning

The responsibilities and the style of functioning of the block education officers (BEOs) have assumed centre stage with yet another incident of sexual abuse in a school.

It has come to light that the Orchids The International School was running pre-primary and higher primary sections illegally. The Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has now issued notice to the BEO concerned for dereliction of duty.

In order to prevent officials from developing vested interests, the Commissioner for Public Instruction, Mohammed Mohsin, has written to the State government proposing that BEOs should not be allowed to function at a place for more than three years. He has also suggested that deputy directors of public instruction (DDPIs) and BEOs should not work at their native places.

The BEO’s role is significant in monitoring schools as he/she is the point of contact at the grassroot level and acts as an intermediary among managements, parents and the government.

“The proposal has been submitted to the government. We want to make sure that BEOs function objectively,” Mohsin said.

However, the Orchids School incident raises the question whether the department’s action is too little and too late and demands a thorough investigation into the factors affecting BEOs’ efficiency in monitoring schools. BEOs complained that they hardly had time to monitor schools.

Requesting anonymity, a BEO told Deccan Herald: “We are bogged down by administrative routines and are not finding time to visit schools. There are too many schools in an education block. Even if we visit one school per day, it will take us two years to visit all schools.” 

While this is the case, the department mandates inspection of at least eight schools in a month. In reality, cultural and sports activities of schools, meetings with head masters and the like are taking up most of their time, the BEO added. That apart, there have been several instances where some private schools have denied access to the BEOs and the DDPIs when they approached schools for inspection. This only left them wondering about the powers they had been vested with.

Need for counselling

The BEO is the authority for the local jurisdiction. Coming in the way of their effective functioning is a criminal offence, pointed out child rights activist Niranjan Aradhya V P. He urged the government to conduct capacity building programmes for BEOs.  City-based organisation Child Rights Trust has begun workshops for BEOs in Chikkaballapur and Gadag and hopes to extend it to officials in Bangalore too.

“The BEOs have to work in a network and they need police assistance for discharging their duties without fear. They act as a bridge between the government and schools. They are the first persons in the complaint mechanism at the grassroot level,”  said G Nagasimha Rao of Child Rights Trust.

Increasing incidents

Bangalore is becoming noted for increasing incidents of sexual abuse in schools. The government should not delay any more in counselling the BEOs about relevant legal provisions. For, increasing efficiency of BEOs will mitigate the problem to a large extent, he added.

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