Over 90 percent of the schools across the country including Mumbai do not have a Child Protection Policy (CPP) in place, which ensures the safety and protection of children when in school. What is more shocking is the fact that schools did not act even after a nationwide survey a year back highlighted that 53 per cent of children had been subjected to sexual or physical abuse in their lives.
A nationwide survey conducted by Childline India Foundation (CIF) to determine the state of child protection in various spaces occupied by children, have come out with alarming findings.
Speaking to Sunday MiDDAY, Nishit Kumar, Head, Communication & Strategic Initiatives, CIF said, “As per the Women and Child Development (WCD) Survey of 2007, 53 percent of all children are sexually abused, but most don’t report the assaults to anyone. The study found that two out of three children in India have faced physically abuse. This findings are based on results from 11 states.”
The sad truth: a year after these findings were made public 90 percent schools in the country have not bothered set up their own CPP. Kumar feels that the time has come for parents to reject schools, which do not have a CPP in place. Kumar revealed that during the course of a few sessions on ‘safe touch and unsafe touch’ that he attended in a reputed school in Mumbai, he was shocked to find that 11 students named the male head clerk of the school as a person who had touched them inappropriately at some point or the other. When this matter was brought to the notice of the principal, he requested that it be hushed up as he was due to retire within a week.
Speaking to SMD Rajeshree Natu, coordinator of PTA United Forum said, “A standard child protection policy should be implemented across all schools and sex education should actually start at home. Parents should ensure that without confusing their child, they convey the message of good touch and wrong touch.”
What the study found
> 28% schools do not have separate toilets for girls and boys.
> Only 4% of schools provide filtered water to children, 19% of schools do not provide any water.
> 14% of schools do not have a first aid box.
> Less than 2% of schools have a counsellor
> Only 12% of school principals have undergone training on child rights.
> Only 10% of schools have a Child Protection Policy. Only 1% of schools have a policy on sexual harassment.
> 64% of schools take no measure to ensure safety of children outside school premises.
> 33% of schools resort to beating, 12% humiliate children in front of peers.
Expert speak: How parents can help
Renowned Child Psychologist Niru Chheda advises parents on how to sensitise children about sexual abuse and provides tips to read behavioural changes in a child
Children between three to six years do not have sufficient knowledge to understand the actual effect of any form of sexual abuse against them. But any unpleasant experience during this stage leaves a permanent scar on their life.
> Parents should immediately involve a counsellor.
> Parents, teachers and friends should continue to behave normally post the incident.
> Teachers in class must spend more time with children and help them move on in life.
> Parents must educate their children about being aware and alert about strangers misbehaving with them.
> Teach children the difference between a healthy touch and unhealthy touch.
> If a normally naughty child suddenly behaves in a timid and scared manner, parents must sit with them and find the reason behind it.
Healthy touch and Unhealthy touch:
> Parents must tell their children that nobody apart from parents should be allowed to undress or dress them.
> Children should be taught that if anybody at school tries to touch certain parts of their body, they should report the incident to their teachers.
Schools should be equipped:
> Schools must ensure availability of counsellors to tackle students’ problems.
> If a child is suffering from behavioural or emotional problems the counsellor must invite their parents and counsel them too.
(As told to Naveen Nair)
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Jayant Jain, President, All India Federation of Parents Teacher Association
I suggest schools set up a common admission test to hire school bus conductors, drivers and attendants. Such incidents are not new. They are being reported more often now. Earlier people were scared. Now they have had enough and will protest.
Swati Popat Vats, President Podar Education Network
The child needs counselling. Parents should not hide or get depressed. By protesting the attack on their child, they have alerted thousands of other mothers and fathers. Also parents should converse with their children to understand what is happening in school.
Pradeep Havnur, Advocate
There was a case decided by the Supreme Court in which children on a picnic lost their lives because their bus met with an accident due to the driver’s negligence. The school was held responsible. Here too, the school is vicariously liable in tort. Schools need to be more cautious about who they hire.
MP Sharma, Director, GD Somani School
“There needs to be a government committee on safety norms that will inspect school buses often. Bus contractors should not be given contracts unless they ensure the presence of female attendants who are properly trained.”
Sayyada Lokhandwala, Parent of a 5-year-old girl
“It is shocking that such an incident can happen in Mumbai and in schools which charge a bomb. If a girl goes to an all-girls school then the bus should have only female staff. I would prefer my daughter traveling in a school bus that is run by a female driver and a female conductor.”