“Hello, I am POCSO… I’d like to be friends with you.” POCSO is the new friend students in two city schools are reading about in their curriculum where he (POCSO) tells them they need to face every situation while growing up.
In a first-of-its-kind attempt, POCSO, or the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, has been personified and is being discussed as a character in short stories and poems with students, junior and senior both.
The Gurukul in Sector 20, Panchkula, and St Stephens School in Sector 45, Chandigarh, have introduced books on POCSO on a pilot basis. The books are taught in a designated period on children against child abuse. The idea has been conceptualised by a Delhi-based NGO, Social Axiom Insignia, which got together counsellors, lawyers and psychologists to personify the Act under “Project CACA — Children Against Child Abuse”.
The text revolves around three friends: POCSO, Arpit and Sana who deal with different situations as they grow up from Class I to Class X, and POCSO guides them in every situation. The number of chapters in these books varies according to class; there are around 30 chapters in each book on average.
Among the topics covered is “your body belongs to you”, wherein the child is taught not to allow anyone to touch private zones which are covered and not let anyone take their pictures. The stories also give an insight into how to deal with situations like when the child is alone at home and a cousin or uncle in the family or father’s friend drops in. The students are told to differentiate between safe and unsafe secrets as well.
Harsimran Kaur, principal of The Gurukul, Sector 20, said, “Children usually quote what they have learnt from books in schools. Giving general information on basic things about safe and unsafe touch is not sufficient these days. So it was really imperative to teach this topic in an interactive story form. I feel school is the best platform to create awareness about child abuse.”
In two stories, “It is not your fault” and “Safety rules and strategies for certain situations”, wherein POCSO is seen putting up a poster at the entrance of the park. The safety rules suggest what one should do while travelling in public transport, when out alone or out with friends. “Stand at a distance even on an escalator. Never be afraid of asking anyone to maintain distance from you. Always walk on the opposite side of the traffic movement,” some of the guidelines state.
“If something or somebody is troubling you, tell your friend POCSO. It will make you feel better. You might find it easier to tell a trusted adult as well,” a worksheet notes.
Louis Lopez, principal of St Stephens School, said, “We hold a 30-minute class for seniors and a 45-minute period for juniors. This period is held once a week. Usually children have fear psychosis about this Act. Sometimes we have an all-boys class or an all-girls class or a mix of both, depending on various chapters.”
Vikas Nautiyal, advisor advocacy for Project CACA, said, “On a pilot basis, we have given these books in some schools in 15 districts of Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Chandigarh as well under our project.”
Taking a cue from the two private schools, the UT Administration is also considering introducing these books in government schools. “Yes, this kind of information is really important for students and we will call for samples of these books first. Then we would see how to incorporate the stuff in regular classes later. Students tend to understand quickly when such information comes in interactive story form,” said UT Secretary Education B L Sharma.