RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- CHILD SAFETY IN SCHOOL
A petition seeking notification and implementation of guidelines for fixing accountability on schools for the safety of children has been filed in the Supreme Court. The petition has been filed by NGO, Bachpan Bachao Andolan, run by Nobel Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi. The petitioner has prayed for a direction to the Central government to notify and implement the Fixing Accountability of School Management towards Safety and Security of Children in School-Guidelines or Accountability Guidelines. The Accountability Guidelines lay down the responsibilities of school management towards ensuring the safety and security of children in schools, both government and private. The Accountability Guidelines, prepared by the Department of School Education & Literacy, Ministry of Human Resource Development (MoHRD) in consultation with the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), have not been notified yet. The cause of action for filing the present petition has arisen because despite there being various laws relating to child safety and security along with the recent Draft Accountability Guidelines, there is no confidence in the implementation of these laws, the petition states
What is school safety?
“School Safety” has been defined as creating safe environment for children, starting from their homes to their schools and back. This includes safety from any kind of abuse, violence, psycho-social issue, disaster: natural and manmade, fire, transportation. Emotional safety is especially important because it is often difficult for teachers and parent s to detect emotional problems and difficulties in children. Bullying can cause victimized students to suffer from lower self-esteem and daily stress about their well-being
The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
The Juveniles Justice Act, 2015:
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 came into force in January, 2016. The new Act repeals the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000. The JJ Act, 2015 provides for strengthened provisions for both children in need of care and protection and children in conflict with law.
The Act clearly defines and classifies offences as petty, serious and heinous, and defines differentiated processes for each category. Keeping in view the increasing number of serious offences being committed by persons in the age group of 16-18 years and recognizing the rights of the victims as being equally important as the rights of juveniles, special provisions are incorporated in the Act to tackle heinous offences committed by individuals in this age group.
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
- The POCSO Act, 2012 was enacted to Protect the Children from Offences of Sexual Assault, Sexual harassment and pornography with due regard for safeguarding the interest and well-being of children.
- The Act defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age, and regards the best interests and welfare of the child as matter of paramount importance at every stage, to ensure the healthy physical, emotional, intellectual and social development of the child.
- The Act defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non penetrative assault, as well as sexual harassment and pornography.
- The Act deems a sexual assault to be “aggravated” under certain circumstances, such as when the abused child is mentally ill or when the abuse is committed by a person in a position of trust or authority like a family member, police officer, teacher, or doctor.
- The Act also casts the police in the role of child protectors during the investigative process.
- The Act stipulates that a case of child sexual abuse must be disposed of within one year from the date the offence is reported
Right to Education (RTE) Act:
- The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, 2009
- This act is an embodiment of Article 21-A, which says that every child has a right to full time elementary education of satisfactory and equitable quality in a formal school which satisfies certain essential norms and standards.
- Article 21-A and the RTE Act came into effect on 1 April 2010.
- It is seen as the most historic development in universalisation of elementary education in the country.
- It implies that every child in the age group of 6 to 14 years has Right to elementary education. They are entitled for free and compulsory education.
- We lack a value system. Our education only provides skills to get a job.
- The refusal to make complaint about the misbehaviour of the school staff. The accused in the Ryan school case was suspended at another school without a police complaint.
- Not complaining emboldens serial sexual offenders & jeopardizes the lives of innocent children.
- Parents do not want to get into the legal system and fear vindictive action from the school.
- The lack of reporting leaves children even more vulnerable to attacks.
- Guidelines for Prevention of Child Abuse have been largely ignored.
- There is no specific law passed by Parliament to deal with the crimes against children in
- Deficient infrastructure, lack of toilets and inadequate safety measures are the reasons for children to feel unsafe. Toilets were identified as vulnerable areas for children.
- The Child Protection Policy ensures safety of children in schools. But, apart from Delhi, this has not been adopted by any other state.
Nature of Child abuse:
- Children have been hurt and abused at school.
- Children are being abused by the caretaker and bus attendant.
- Abuse that our children face from classmates, teachers and even school heads.
- Many students have died or been injured due to poor infrastructure at the schools.
- A survey conducted by World Vision India revealed that one in every two children is a victim of sexual abuse.
- A UNICEF report said that majority of abuses of children was reported for the age group of 5 to 11 years.
- Children are unable to deal with the consequences of the humiliation meted out to them.
- In 2017, NCPCR which is the premier institution in the country for protection of children had developed a manual for the safety and security of children.
- In 2018, they also developed guidelines for children living in hostels.
- In 2018, the MoHRD identified the responsibility to implement those guidelines.
- 1 year down the line those are still draft guidelines .
- Ryan International School
- Bihar Mujaffarpur Shelter home case.
- A hostel case in tribal school
- RTE is the justiciable right of every children but free and compulsory education is still not the reality.
- Private schools are outside the ambit of MoHRD, they are under CBSE which is not a statutory.
- Condition in government schools is alarming.
- Guidelines are only preventive in nature.
- Infrastructure provision is from satisfactory.
- All the stakeholders including parents, teachers, students, school management, and the education department authorities must identify the lacunae and create a manual for school safety.
- These stakeholders must be given responsibility for implementing the guidelines.
- The list of criminals with past cases of wrongdoing against kids must be circulated in each & every school of our country.
- ISO certification on safety guidelines.
- Schools should deploy sufficient security guards from recognised security agency only.
- Safety protocols must be put in place and police verification conducted for all employees.
- Accountability should be fixed right from the owner to the level of principal.
- As a parent, it is important that we teach our children to be assertive in order to protect themselves against incidents of bullying and emotional exploitation.
- At school, creating a safe learning environment, identifying pupils who are at risk of harm and then taking suitable action.
- Create a buddy system where children are paired up, or are in groups of three.
- Educate children and make them aware of their own rights over their bodies. Teach children about good touch and bad touch.
- Healthy and open conversations within schools can identify potential flash points and early action can be taken to save children from harm.
- Auditing the school infrastructure and amenities to create a better and safe learning environment.
- Make self defense classes mandatory for both boys and girls.
- Child Abuse Prevention Committee should be appointed including staff and parents to tackle local issues.
- Child counsellor should be a full time employee in every school and she/he should talk to every child regularly.
- We need to create quality human beings. We need to radically change the education system.
- The children are the biggest asset of the nation. They are the most vulnerable part of the society who needs to be protected.
- With care, with vigilance and with supervision the school can be made a safe space.
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