Several studies and reports have indicated that children are prone to exploitation even within homes, and most of the cases of molestation are perpetrated by someone the victims have known closely. It indicates a dangerous trend related to children’s safety. There has been growing incidence of crime against children in the National Capital Region (NCR). A seven-year-old boy is murdered in the toilet of a Gurgaon school, another boy, a teenager, is slapped by a bully in a Noida school, etc. A Lucknow-based senior journalist, Ratan, voices his concern, in the Special Feature. A Different Truths exclusive.
The well-being of children is probably the best indicator of civilised behaviour and a major point in development index. It is utterly shameful that in these times of rapid technological advances, the subject of child safety in schools has arisen to haunt modern India. At a time, when the people of India should be thinking of eradicating greater social and political evils, we appear to be struggling to keep our children safe inside schools – where most of the people think their children would be safer than in their homes.
Several studies and reports have indicated that children are prone to exploitation even within homes, and most of the cases of molestation are perpetrated by someone the victims have known closely. It indicates a dangerous trend related to children’s safety: they are not safe in homes, they are not safe on streets, and they are not safe in schools. So, what should parents do? If they vent their ire on social media or through letters, then the school managements go as far as to threaten them, alleging that the parents are over-reacting and trying to malign the schools’ image.
It is indeed a difficult time for those having a school-going child. Those who have grown-up children must be feeling relieved that they did not have to see this day. The schools that have big names, international affiliations, smart boards and smart equipments, expensive furnishings such as air-conditioned classrooms, etc., are proving to be extremely lax in safety measures. They generally outsource several activities such as cleaning, security services, bus, and van driving, instruments’ and equipments’ maintenance, housekeeping and mess/canteen facilities. The schools which run on a day-care system have even a greater reliance on outsourcing. In such cases, the possibility of non-staff members or people from external agencies being present within school premises is much greater. And significantly, such individuals could change every day, depending upon the routine of the external agency involved.
Then, in case of any mishap involving a child, can the school management take shelter behind the plea that none of its staff was involved? And it was an outsider who probably did it? It is a fallacious plea behind, which most schools are trying to hide. In most cases involving molestation, attack or even the recent murder of a child that happened in a Haryana school, the school managements have tried to come clean by saying that their staff was not be blamed. The question that needs to be asked is: Who is responsible for allowing entry to outsiders into school premises? Surely there must be an agreement between the school management and the security agency concerned, that must be having in fine print the liabilities of each side explained in detail?
It is relevant here to refer to a letter written by a school management to parents of children enrolled there, in which the school director gives lengthy advice to parents about what they should do with the children in terms of talking to them, explaining to them about dangers of video games, violence and other undesirable activities. It ends on a note advising the parents that raising children in a proper way is as much the responsibility of parents as of the school administration. So far so good, but then it almost steers clear of its responsibility in the entire matter of violence between the children within the premises. It is nobody’s argument that shaping a child’s personality is the responsibility of a school alone, but then will the school concerned please refer to the promises it makes to the parents when they are getting their child admitted to the school? The school management goes to the extent of claiming that it will fulfil the responsibility of a caring guardian, it will make the child feel at home, give the child all comforts of home and much more, and shape the child into a responsible citizen of the future.
But there is one unfortunate incident, and the responsibility is shifted to the parents’ shoulders.
It is this attitude of the school management that needs to be corrected. Violence against children and attempts to exploit them are condemnable everywhere – be it homes, streets or schools. When in the home, it is the duty of the parents/guardians and no one else to ensure the safety and well-being of the child. But in schools the responsibility is entirely that of the school management to see that the windows of the toilets are secured, the entry to washrooms is regulated, outsiders are not allowed in during school hours, and the support services (maintenance, transport, etc.) are run under strict control of the management.
If the school managements think of a little social responsibility other than managing their bank balances, then they would not have to worry about parents’ reactions in social media.
©Ratan Mani Lal
Photos from the Internet
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Ratan Mani Lal is a journalist with more than 40 years’ experience in major English and Hindi newspapers such as The Times of India, Hindustan Times and The Bhaskar Group. He headed the Jaipuria Institute Mass Communication for several years.
He writes for Firstpost, One India.com, Zeenews.com and other publications in English and Hindi. A celebrated commentator for several television channels, he writes on current affairs with a focus on political scenario, development issues, and environment.