Measures for enforcing school safety

Teachers, principals, educationists and other experts will come up with solutions that will be shared with the state education department, for eliminating incidents such as molestation, harassment and ragging

There have been innumerable cases in the past few weeks where the safety of children within and outside school campuses has been questioned. School teachers, principals, educationists as well as other experts got together under one roof on Saturday, to highlight the solutions that could be implemented in schools to avoid such instances. “The aim is not just to make people aware of the problems; we also want to come up with solutions that can be shared with the state education department,” said Basanti Roy, educationist and former secretary of the state board.

The meeting was part of Shikshan Katta, an initiative of the Shikshan Vikas Manch at Yashwantrao Chavan Centre, an informal forum of educationists and school principals. Minutes of this meeting have been put across to the education department for further discussion and action.

Many principals highlighted the infrastructural defects in school buildings and stressed on the need for regular safety audits. “Disaster management plays no role in the school curriculum. Our students as well as staff are still not sure of how to handle a situation beyond the school routine,” said Sucheta Bhawalkar, a participating principal.

Questions were also raised over the ability of teachers and principals to handle cases of molestations or harassment. “Teachers need to understand that they are the only point of contact a student has after their parents and friends, so when they speak up it is often misinterpreted by teachers who are not trained to handle such issues,” said Farida Lambey, founder trustee of Pratham, an NGO.

Suggestions were also made to make the Maharashtra State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (MSCPCR) stronger by putting in place a team that could help clear cases at a better speed. "At our school, we have Recess Time Volunteers who walk around the campus during recess and keep an eye on students so that even if teachers are busy having lunch, we know our students are being looked after," said Fr Jude Fernandes, principal of St Stanislaus High School, Bandra.

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