From July, about 70,000 Bihar schools will have committees of teachers and guardians exclusively to help protect primary and middle school students from sexual harassment by teachers and outsiders. These will submit monthly reports to the education department secretary through district education officers.
The primary education department had issued an order on April 4 to set up such committees, with teachers and guardians as members, but an early summer vacation prevented schools from meeting a June 21 deadline for submitting a final report on formation of these committees. This month, primary education director Pankaj Kumar Pal has written to all district education officers that the committees must be set up as per provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012.
“Such committees will help monitor any such cases and also in coming out with measures with coordination between teachers and guardians,” said former HRD principal secretary secretary Amarjit Sinha, now transferred to social welfare.
The Act, in effect since November 2012, is gender-neutral and defines various forms of sexual abuse including harassment, penetrative or non-penetrative abuse, and pornography.
Purnea additional district programme officer Sanjay Singh explained how the committees will function: “A school committee will report on any sexual offence during school hours to a cluster resource centre coordinator, who in turn will submit a report to block education officer. The BEO will report to the DEO who, in turn, will submit a monthly report to the primary education director.”
The idea is to involve guardians and create awareness among schoolchildren about “any manner of sexual advances” by teachers. The committee will coordinate with local police and work as a “fact-finding team”.