All 75,000 Bihar schools from Class I to Class XII would have POCSO cells functioning from March to hear complaints involving inappropriate touching, sexual misconduct or exploitation at schools or home from students.
Every school will have to forward any complaint to the nearest police station if it merits a case to be registered under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
UNICEF has been training school teachers to prepare a team of master trainers to teach other teachers about fine and simple legal points of POCSO and other laws related to physical harassment and sexual exploitation of children. The students will be also taught about adolescence, reproductive organs, bad touch, harassment, and about not misusing the internet.
Kiran Kumari, special project officer, Bihar Education Project Council (BEPC), told The Sunday Express: “This will work at two levels. We have already passed instructions to all district education officers to form a POCSO cell in each school from Class I to XII by the end of February. It has to start functioning from March 1. From April, the DEO (district education officer) will start monitoring it.”
Kumari said a school committee headed by a principal or a headmaster would have a senior teacher, a girl student, a boy student and a clerk. “A student can either directly hand over any complaint of sexual exploitation or misconduct to the committee or leave it in the box with his or her identity, or without it. It would be the committee’s job to find out the identity of the complainant at the time of lodging an FIR. As per POCSO rules, anyway all records have to be confidential,” she said.
This committee, she said, is being formed in the first phase in secondary schools (classes IX to XII) and would be replicated in primary and middle schools subsequently.
The BEPC special project officer said as Unnayan Bihar had already been monitoring attendance of students online, POCSO committees at senior secondary level would be linked to Unnayan Bihar for online and centralised monitoring. The complaint box kept at school would be open every week, she said.
According to her, the special focus on teachers’ training is given on ways to not use pornographic websites and make best use of the internet in consultation with parents.
UNICEF Bihar spokesperson Nipurn Gupta said: “We have provided technical support to BEPC in developing guidelines and training module for prevention of sexual abuse in schools, with support of expert agencies. Suitable teachers (at high school level) have been identified and trained as master trainers by BEPC. These trainers would train teachers in all schools during the next academic session. The aim is to ensure schools, teachers become sensitive and can support in preventing sexual abuse of children.”
Gupta said mechanisms such as suggestion boxes, committees, counselling, linkages to appropriate support agencies are proposed to be set up in schools.