Recent tragic events involving small school children has raised the issue of their security while they are at school. Typically, children spend more waking hours in school than they do at home. This makes their risk of and exposure to various kinds of child abuse greater.
Since they are the most vulnerable section of society, especially children of judgmental parents, they become easy preys to those inhuman predators who compromise not just the physical integrity of a child, but also damage the psyche irreparably.
### Parents’ Responsibility Regarding Children’s Security
Parents must instill a sense of security in their children. The home should be their haven, and mummy and daddy should be their best friends. That is necessary to ensure that if something is worrying your child, then s/he should be able to share those concerns.
It would help parents identify if something worrisome is occurring in school, at the playground, or at tuition. When parents are not so supportive, the affected children might think that what happened was their fault. This can cause a serious guilt complex, which would create severe personality issues as they grow older.
### Ask around:
If the child seems unwilling to talk, that is your cue to speak to her/his teachers, and classmates. Probe gently, but be prepared to take a sterner stand if you feel that someone may be telling you less than the truth. Sometimes, children prefer to convey their thoughts and feelings through stick figures and coloring pictures. Look for clues in their books.
### Schools’ Responsibility to Protect Students
Schools shouldn’t overlook their responsibility to keep all the students as secure as is reasonable. Obviously, there is little they can do to prevent terrorist activities. Yet, they should create an atmosphere of trust and security for the children. Apart from screening teachers and non-teaching staff for their relevant skills; schools should screen them for behavioral issues.
Not just the principal, all senior teachers must be watchful for signs that some children seem more frightened or sullen than might be normal. Report it anytime a child shows up with bruises, or other external marks of injury. Speak to the parents. Teachers’ attitudes make a difference.
### Break the silence:
In the junior classes, the class teacher has a greater responsibility, since younger children are more vulnerable to abuse. They might be too terrified to even run away from a predator, and would be more susceptible to emotional blackmail. Encourage them to speak up, and talk of any terrifying experiences they might have had. The skeletons in the cupboard are more than likely to come tumbling out.
### CCTV Cameras Could Solve Some Problems
When evil-doers know they are under surveillance, they will be less disposed to prey on the children. Classrooms, halls, labs, library, the outer part of the washrooms, and corridors should be monitored round the clock to prevent any after hours mischief.
It would improve discipline among the students, since it isn’t only support staff and teachers from whom a child might be at risk. Children are as much at risk from peers and seniors at school. Therefore, school authorities should not depend only on security cams, but should also create a culture of alertness.
When the school comes down heavily on any wrong-doer — like reporting the matter to the law enforcement authorities and/or dismissal from service — it sends out a loud message of zero tolerance of child abuse. The fear of consequences is still one of the most effective deterrents.
### The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO), 2012
According to The Morung Express, in its article “The sounds of silence: Child sexual abuse in India”, fifty-three percent children in India face some form of child sexual abuse. To safeguard our children, the government of India passed the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act (POCSO) in 2012, which came into effect from July 2013.
Since this Act criminalizes child abuse, and makes aiding and abetting child sexual abuse an offence; school should realize not having a zero tolerance of child abuse as stated policy could easily put them under the scanner.
### An Alert, Activist Citizenry Is an Excellent Defense
Children are comparatively more secure in Kolkata schools. It could have much to do with the fear factor of a crowd materializing from nowhere in the blink of an eye.
If a child was outraged and/or murdered in a Kolkata school, not just the parents but the entire locality would have turned out en masse to probably shut down the school for keeps. One doesn’t normally realize it, but people in West Bengal in general, and in Kolkata in particular are more law abiding than they are usually given credit for.
### Some children are still secure:
When a schoolboy was asked whether an incident as happened in Ryan could have occurred in a Kolkata school; he went into sarcastic mode to reply, “Don’t you know that the more murders, the more famous the school?
In the bigger schools, a murder a day; in the smaller ones, maybe one per week or half-murders.” It is such a relief to find that some school children are still so secure, that the very notion of a murder happening in their school or a friend’s school is matter of mirth or something to mock.
**Author**:- Kalpona Moitra
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