Academic record, teacher quality and available infrastructure are the few things parents have, till now, debated when choosing a school for their child. After the December 16 Delhi gang-rape and recent cases in which minor students were abused by their teachers in Delhi schools, they are looking for something else. More than the quality of education, parents now want to make sure their school of choice is a safe place.
“Earlier, I thought I would send my daughter to Delhi’s best school. What I now want is that the school be in the vicinity,” said Aashish Parashar, a South Delhi resident, whose three-year-old will be taking admission in the upcoming academic year.
The safety of the girl child on school buses has become priority for schools of the National Capital Region (NCR). “We also take attendance on the bus,” said Anju Sharma, principal, Ryan International School, Ghaziabad. “We have planned our bus routes in such a way that not a single child is left to be dropped alone at the last stop,” said Anita Makkar, principal, DAV.
At school assemblies, acceptable behaviour between a child and an adult is —what is a ‘good touch,’ ‘a bad touch’ and how to deal with a situation when a known person is the person with bad intentions – is also discussed without fear of taboo. “After the gang rape incident, we held lectures for parents and teachers so that they can help children tell the difference between good and bad vibes,” said Sharmila Raheja, principal, Uttam School for Girls, Ghaziabad.
Workshops on safety issues and other security related drills, martial arts training and consultations with doctors have now become common in many schools. But there’s a downside to this. “We must be careful that we our children do not grow up thinking that every man is a bad person,” said the Kothari International School principal. We must empower them but not make them anxious, she added.
But the December gang-rape has made everyone from parents to school-going children anxious. “My parents have become more protective; even I get worried if I am late. I am constantly calling my parents to come and pick me up,” Rhea Martha Benny, a Class X student, Somerville school, Noida, said. “My brother tells me to switch on the GPS on my phone all the time. He has applications on his phone with which he can track my location.” she said.