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Help cells in schools find no takers,experts blame stigma

For a majority of the students studying in government schools across city,sexual harassment committees are something they have no idea about.

Written by Express News Service | Chandigarh |
February 5, 2009 1:06:52 am

For a majority of the students studying in government schools across city,sexual harassment committees are something they have no idea about. While the committees have received no complaints in any of the schools,psychologists feel social stigma could be the reason why students shy away from seeking help.

According to guidelines issued by the Central Board of Secondary Education,it is mandatory for the schools to form committees to look into cases of sexual harassment. The committee comprises the school principal,a counsellor and a few teachers.

Students,however,say they are not aware of any such panel being a part of their school. “There is a complaint box in the school where we can submit our grievances. We are not aware if complaints pertaining to harassment can also be submitted there. It will be better if teachers inform the students personally about the facility,” said Simran Kaur,a student of Government Model Senior Secondary School,Sector 19.

In the absence of grievance boxes,however,students of non-model schools cannot register any complaint and have no access to an expert panel to look into their problems. “There is no complaint box in the school and we have no information whether such a cell exists. Student do come across a number of problems but we don’t know whom to approach,” said a student of Government High School,Sector 40.

Officials of the Education department,meanwhile,said they were taking appropriate steps to create awareness among students regarding the help cells. “We recently held a meeting with principals. This is a vital issue and students should be made aware of the help that is available to them. The department has asked class teachers and counsellors to inform students about the cells and to form inter-personal ties with them so that they are more vocal about their problems,” said Samwartak Singh,Director,Public Instructions (Schools).

Experts,however,feel the roots of ignorance lie much deep. “We will be fooling ourselves in believing that cases of harassment do not occur at school level. Such issues are very much a part of the society. The social stigma attached to it discourages students to come forward. Another reason is that we end up victimising the victim all the more,due to which people prefer to brush the matter under the carpet,” said Nisha Minocha,a counsellor.

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