With no strict laws in place to deal with child abuse in schools, how can they ensure a haven for their students?
Crimes against children in schools have increased in the last decade. They are being raped, drugged, murdered, bullied and punished — in school buses, bathrooms, classrooms, labs, libraries — places they are unsupervised. Neither government nor private schools offer a safe environment for kids.
In this light, it is needless to even reiterate the fact that the most important part of all schools’ mission is to provide a safe environment for learning. Despite that, in the last one year, many horrific incidents have taken place in several schools across the country. There have been instances where children have been attacked in the same school twice or in different schools under the same management.
Shagun Ali, educationist and founder of an international school, says, “The Ryan International School incident is a stark reminder of the Vasant Kunj tragedy and it’s a shame. The CCTV camera should be well-monitored by a person who has a legitimate profile. There should be a male/female servant to monitor washrooms until school hours just like there are people to assist customers outside trial rooms in public places.”
She adds that parents and the faculty of all institutions should avoid any personal contact with bus conductors or security guards and should advice their kids to maintain friendly yet academically-driven relationships with them. “The government should make norms for the fees structure, safety and more. If not strictly followed, the registration should be cancelled.”
The existing law
There is no specific law against the abuse of children inside schools. There are only a few rules. For example, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (repealed and replaced in 2015) made it mandatory for a child welfare committee to be set up in each district. They are tasked with looking into the care, protection, development and rehabilitation of children.
“Any kind of abuse of school children or corporal punishment will not be tolerated by the School Education Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh. Severe action will be taken against the teachers and management. In a case reported recently from a private school in Ramavarappadu, Vijayawada, the DEO, Krishna took immediate action as directed by Minister, HRD. A case has been booked and the teacher has been removed and the school was issued notice,” says IAS Sandhya Rani, Commissioner, School Education, AP Government.
How can schools step up?
The school is responsible for the safety of a child from the moment he or she alights in front of the premises until the child boards the transport in the evening. “At Hyderabad Public School, we have 130 CCTV cameras and a control room which monitors this 24x7 along with the log book. Our security at the gate and on campus is robust and time-tested. We are introducing the complete check of the academic building by ensuring that lady attendants see if any child is left in classroom or washrooms after the students leave for mass gatherings like the assembly or lunch time. They have been stationed outside all washrooms used by children up to Class V and all girls’ washrooms. Fortnight audits of security have been initiated,” says Skand Bali, Principal, HPS Begumpet.
He adds that the school’s primary teachers escort the students to the parking area when it’s time to go home. He adds, “The antecedents of all the visitors are verified upon arrival at the main gate and only after confirmation from the respective departments, the visitors are allowed to enter or exit.”
Elaborating on a few steps to ensure tight security, Gita Karan, Principal, Gitanjali School says, “CCTV cameras should be installed at all vulnerable places. Regular rounds by the principal and the coordinators will be made mandatory. No car and auto drivers will be allowed in the building. Parents should only be allowed to visit the school with appointments. Parents should inform class teachers who will pick up their child. All drivers and attendants who pick up children should have identification cards with their photographs. And also there should be separate toilets for all employees.”
Stating that it is the “duty” of school staff to protect children first and foremost, V. Srinivasan, Member, Executive Board, Sreenedhi International School, says, “All staff have a responsibility and duty to protect the rights and dignity of all children. Our school reviews the security and safety measures constantly through department meetings which are recorded and we follow up as required. The Child Protection Policy is a transparent document for us and we share the guidelines with all the stakeholders and expect all of them to follow it. The safety regulations and the policy should be approved by a reputed international organisation — not by local and national authorities. Schools’ child protection policy should also be scrutinised by external agencies every year to make sure that the policy is a working document so that the children are protected.”
Areas for scrutiny
1. Classrooms, labs, library, playground and swimming pool
3. Bus and transport guidelines
4. School hostel
5. Kitchen and dining hall
Entry into school to be restricted and ID Cards should be mandatory for all
Background check for all the staff
Children’s areas inside schools should be out of bounds for all the non-academic personnels and this should be strictly monitored by the security staff in each of the buildings
A seven-year-old boy of Ryan International School, Gurugram, was murdered on Friday. In 2016, the drowned body of another boy was found in a water tank on the premises of a Ryan International School in Vasant Kunj, Delhi
A five-year-old girl in Tagore Public School, Gandhinagar, was allegedly raped by a school peon
A boy from a school near Delhi was allegedly slapped so hard by another student that his hearing in one ear is impaired
A piano teacher of Tansen Academy, Model Town, Delhi allegedly molested a seven-year-old girl multiple times
A dance teacher of Presidium School of Ashok Vihar, North-west Delhi, allegedly tried to molest a Class V student
An 11-year-old girl of Rao’s High School, BHEL, Hyderabad, was made to stand in the boys’ washroom as a punishment for not wearing a proper uniform