While admitting our child in a school, most of us get disillusioned by the high reputation or artificial facilities of that fascinating edifice of learning. But it’s time we viewed the schools from the prism of safety and security as well, observes Akash Tomer of Elets News Network (ENN).
Beyond the realm of school’s popularity, today we need our kids to remain safe in the school environs. A spate of incidents recently in schools have triggered a debate on schools’ safety scenario.
It seems there is an urgent need for effective policies that could ensure fool-proof security of the kids in schools.
The brutal murder of a seven-year-old boy at a reputed school in Haryana’s Gurugram city in September left the entire nation bewildered. Following close on the heels came to light the rape of a five-year-old girl child in a prominent school of Delhi.
The two incidents, as many other such tragedies in the past, underscored the poor state of student security in the so-called ‘upscale’ schools of our country, forcing the parents to ask themselves: are our children really safe at schools?
Worried as they are, parents have since then been asking the government and school managements to ensure the prescribed safety and security norms are strictly followed by all schools, government as well as private.
The Gurugram incident was not a one-off incident that brought to fore the student safety issue. In fact, there have been many incidents in the public memory, like the 2013 rape case of a minor girl inside the toilet of a Goa school, that still send chills down the parents’ spine. However, what is more alarming is that over the past few years, such incidents have increased considerably.
“It is very important for schools to have a foolproof security system to secure the campus not only from external threats but also from internal ones. Schools cannot afford to ignore any suspicious activity by the staff members.”
Earlier in May this year, a six-year-old was found dead in the water tank of a reputed school. The list of such incidents is too long to be covered in its entirety. Moreover, given the attitude of school managements in handling such a sensitive issue as student safety our thought goes to those students who suffer silently and have nowhere to go to report the culprits to authorities for appropriate action.
Therefore, it is very important for schools to have a foolproof security system to secure the campus not only from external threats but also from internal ones. Schools cannot afford to ignore any suspicious activity by the staff members.
Many private schools in the country promise air-conditioning in classrooms, CCTVs in their campus and a robust security system comprising security guards within the premises as well as during the transportation of kids to and from the schools. The schools often advertise these ‘services’ as their unique selling points, charging a hefty amount from the parents for the same. Parents, too, are willing to pay as safety of their children is of utmost importance to them.
But increasing attacks on students in school campuses highlight some major loopholes in the promises made by schools. Moreover, after paying a hefty amount as fee, parents leave it to the school management to decide on the safety measures and often fail to notice or question the lapses.
What can be done?
Securing a school premises requires a complex multi-layered screening process with the help of technical gadgetry, manned by skilled security personnel, to keep all potentially lethal objects and persons out. An outer perimeter wall and fencing is not enough to keep the premises secure, as in most of the cases school personnel are seen to be at fault. A way to overcome this is to partner with a parent association for regular inspection of security facilities, and provide inputs for improvement of services.
In order to avoid child abuse, a special counselling team should be constituted by the schools to address these issues and to teach children about “bad and good touch”. Along with the police verification of both teaching and non-teaching staff, schools must establish child protection cells and policies should be drafted to ensure the same within the premises.
Other than the above measures, there are certain other security measures that must be adopted by various schools to avoid any accident.
Self-defence Lessons: Students need to be safe even outside the school premises. Schools need to ensure that students can take care of themselves and tackle situations like abductions, abuse, etc. Lessons in self-defence come as a boon during unprecedented events. Self-defence lessons should include recognising unwanted advances, being alert in case a child is being watched, knowing how to throw off a physical attack, etc..
Emergency Drills: With the rise in emergency situations in schools around the world, institutions need to be better prepared to handle cases of terrorist attacks, shootings, fire, etc. Emergency exit plans, appointing senior students as floor wardens, preparing students to remain calm in case of attacks are some ways in which schools can ensure student safety in any such situation..
Bully-free Schools: Ragging and bullying along with MMS scandals are another major cause for concern among parents these days. Schools need to ensure the mental health of students by addressing cases of bullying or ragging on school premises. Schools should also appoint counsellors or psychologists to help students address issues of trauma, rage, depression, etc.
Health Inspections: Children tend to pick up bacteria and viruses mainly because of the food they consume. A safety measure is not just limited to an emergency. Schools need to ensure that the food consumed by children within school premises (at the cafeteria or in a school mess) follow stringent measures and guidelines to maintain hygiene. Food served at schools must undergo regular quality checks to ensure that the food is fit for consumption.
Besides food safety measures, institutions must also conduct regular medical health check-ups in order to avoid any kind of mass infections.
Government Guidelines: The Ministry of Human Resource Development and the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) have issued a set of guidelines to all its affiliated schools on the safety of children.
- Ensure support staff are employed by authorised agencies and maintain proper records of them as well.
- Police verification and psychometric evaluation must be conducted of all staff employees, emphasising this be done meticulously for nonteaching staff as well like bus conductors, drivers, peon, and other support staff.
- Constitute parent-teacher-students committee to address security and safety needs of students while taking regular feedback from parents as well.
- Provide training and development to staff to protect children from any form of abuse.
- Closely monitor access to school buildings by outsiders and visitors.
- Install CCTV cameras at all vulnerable points in the school premises and ensure it is functional at all times.
- Schools will need to conduct safety/security audits of their premises and employees from the respective local police station within the next two months.
- Schools shall also constitute a separate committee for redressal of public, staff, students, and parents grievances, internal complaint committee on sexual harassment and committee under Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act. Details of all these committees along with the contact details must be displayed prominently on the school notice board and conspicuously on the school website as well.
- Safety and security of children is the collective responsibility of the society. Along with the courts and governments, parents and schools should also come together and think of ways of keeping children safe.