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The recent sexual assault of a six-year-old student of Vibgyor International School (VIS) in Bangalore allegedly by two staff members (one of the accused, a skating instructor, was arrested on Sunday) raises several questions: Why didn’t the school do a background check before hiring them?
If they had made an effort to do so they would have found out that the instructor’s previous employer had sacked him after questions were raised about his character. Second, why didn’t the previous school report about the man and file a police complaint, thereby putting other children at risk? More importantly, how did teachers of VIS leave the child alone for almost 30 minutes?
To exacerbate matters, several top schools, including VIS, have asked parents to sign a document that absolves the school authorities of any responsibility of a child’s security when they are inside the school premises or on a school trip. The government must step in and force the schools to take back such circulars because the security of a child is as, if not more, important than the education a school imparts.
This is not the first such incident in Bangalore: A TV news channel ran an interview of a mother who is living through a similar trauma. Her seven-year-old daughter was raped in another school in the city and she alleged that the school did not help her despite medical evidence. The minor was allegedly raped by a plumber working in the school. If this is the state of reputed schools, one shudders to think what happens in government schools, where children are often left unattended and even basic infrastructure like toilets are unavailable, making them vulnerable to such attacks.
India has a strong law — the Protection of Children against Sexual Offences Act, 2012 — that makes it mandatory for every sexual offence involving children to be reported under it but it is not complied with in letter and spirit. The legislation states if a school fails to report a sexual assault case, the institution or the school authority concerned can be severely punished. But ground realities state a different story. Schools have to step up efforts to form a sound framework to address campus sexual assault cases in a timely and sensitive manner.