There are measures which can and should be taken now that the question of every child's safety has arisen in our educational institutes.
What do you think the parents of Armaan Sehgal and Pradyuman Thakur thought after dropping them off at school?
After the recent incidents in Ryan International School, Gurugram and GD Goenka Public School, Ghaziabad, parents, guardians and relatives are in a state of turmoil.
Over the years, the Apex court has issued guidelines for safety measures for school children and school transport. The CBSE has also issued guidelines after the Ryan International School incident. The incident at GD Goenka Public School led to a PIL for improved medical facilities at schools by the parents of the deceased child. Meanwhile, another boy studying at a reputed Noida school lost 25 percent of his hearing after being slapped for a bet while being filmed on the app Snapchat – a victim of cyber bullying.
Schools across the country have different guidelines and laws regarding safety measures. But we need to to have one comprehensive legislation that can cover all the key areas regarding safety and security in schools.
5 MAJOR CHECKPOINTS FOR SCHOOLS.
The recent Armaan Sehgal incident has shown that most schools do not have proper medical facilities. The nine-year-old was taken to the hospital in a teacher’s car as there was no ambulance and no oxygen machine.
Schools should have one ambulance of their own with proper medical equipment at hand. Medical rooms should have a full-time doctor and a qualified nurse.The government and educational regulatory authorities across the country should now take up the availability and betterment of medical facilities as a key point.
Sexual Harassment Prevention
The National Crimes Records Bureau (NCRB) reports that a total of 14,913 cases under the ‘Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act’, 2012 were registered during the year 2015.
Out of these, 8,800 cases were filed under sections 4 & 6 of the Act – dealing with penetrative and aggressively penetrative sexual assaults respectively.
In 55% of the cases, the attacker was known to the child. Uttar Pradesh (3,078 cases), Madhya Pradesh (1,687 cases) and Tamil Nadu (1,544 cases) have accounted for a majority of such cases in the country.
Schools should constitute a special counselling team to address issues related to child abuse and to teach children about “bad and good touch”.Schools must ensure police verification of both teaching and non-teaching staff. Child protection cells must be established and policies should be drafted to ensure the same within school premises.
The Supreme Court has issued guidelines for school buses. The following points should be taken into consideration:
- “SCHOOL BUS” should be written prominently on the back and front of a van or private bus.
- The bus should have a medical first aid box and a fire extinguisher.
- The driver should not exceed 50 kmph in speed.
- Windows should be fitted with horizontal grills.
- The bus driver and conductor should be in proper uniform.
- All vehicles should possess valid annual fitness certificates.
- The name of the school and contact details must be written on the bus.
- The bus doors should be fitted with reliable locks.
- The driver should have a valid license and at least five years experience in driving heavy vehicles.
- There should be at least one conductor on every school bus.
- If it is a hired bus or van, it should have “ON SCHOOL DUTY” prominently displayed.
Safety checks must be conducted twice a year. Educational consultant Ambuja Iyer has prepared a draft for safety checks for schools including but not limited to aspects such as fire safety, security, disaster preparedness.
- Fire safety
- Fire exits should be located at convenient, accessible points
- Students and teachers need to be instructed about evacuation plans
- Loose electrical wires must be tended to immediately
- A procedure must be put in place to conduct structural audits of the school building
- Banisters and railings must be sturdy along the staircase and corridors. They should also be well-lit
- Computer room
- Students working on computers should be monitored.
- Sensitive documents, exam papers and results should be password-protected
- Entrances to the toilets need to be well monitored
- Other safety requirements
- Badges and name tags should be made mandatory for teaching and non-teaching staff
- Police verification and psychometric evaluation of the teaching and non-teaching staff should always be undertaken
- Visitors must have limited access to the school
- CCTV cameras need to be installed across school premises and should be regularly monitored
According to Teens, Tweens and Technology’s Report 2015 “Cyberbullying is targeting a person on social media to cause harassment or embarrassment.”
Schools should take the following actions :
- Teaching children about cyber etiquette.
- Conducting workshops on how cyber bullying takes lives.
- Spreading awareness about why it is an issue and must be spoken about.
- Psychiatric support and counselling must be made available to anyone who has fallen prey to cyber bullying.
It is unfortunate that we have to talk about the safety of children in educational institutes. However, there are measures which can and should be taken now that the question of every child’s safety has arisen.