Against the backdrop of several incidents of child sexual abuse reported in the city, schools have started becoming more cautious, choosing to be proactive rather than reactive. Several city schools are not only sensitising students about “good and bad touch” but also training teachers to identify behavioural patterns among students.
“Awareness among younger children between Classes I and III is more important as these children are not able to tell the difference between affectionate petting and inappropriate touch,” said Kalpana Dwivedi, principal of St Joseph’s School, Panvel. The school conducts annual sessions on “good touch and bad touch” for students in preprimary and primary sections.
The “good touch and bad touch” sessions, now held by many schools in the city, have yielded positive results.
The Early Childhood Association (ECA), a non-profit organisation that works towards protecting the rights of children, has issued advisories to schools across the country on how to create awareness among children, parents and teachers. “The ECA has also chalked out protocols for schools to follow in case of complaints of child sexual abuse,” said Swati Popat Vats, who is the president of the ECA and heads the Podar Education Network.
“Schools associated with the ECA regularly organise sensitisation workshops for children, teachers as well as parents,” she said. Apart from Podar chain of schools, the Children’s Academy chain, too, follows the protocol.
The ECA advices schools to not leave children alone with male staff members and suggests that a female staff member is always around, that CCTVs be installed and the footage checked regularly.
Lina Ashar, founder of Kangaroo Kids and Billabong High International School, said while it was important to have security measures in place on the campus, sensitising children about sexual abuse was more effective. “Child sexual abuse is not limited to school campus. Sometimes, it happens at home by acquaintances and family members. Hence, the child should be able to tell if he or she is being touched inappropriately,” said Ashar.
Schools also keep an eye out for behavioural or physical symptoms of abuse. For instance, at Billabong, counsellors continuously monitor emotional and physical well being of students. At St Joseph’s, teachers have been trained to be sensitive and ask about physical injuries or any behavioural changes in the child.
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