With the safety of schoolgirls becoming a cause for concern, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) recently asked its affiliated schools to train girls studying in Classes 1 to 10 in self-defence techniques. Experts said the training should be made compulsory in all schools.
The CBSE has directed schools to hold week-long training programmes twice a year and then earmark a period to practise self-defence techniques. It also suggested that girls be encouraged to play non-contact sports.
Following the directives, several CBSE-affiliated schools in the city have decided to conduct training programmes all through the year. For instance, at Apeejay School, Kharghar, physical education teachers have started working on a strategy to teach self-defence.
“We plan to introduce situation-based self-defence training for students of the higher classes. This will comprise basic techniques on avoidable and non-avoidable situations,” said Indu Mathur, the school’s principal. The school introduced karate lessons for students of Classes 1 to 6 since last year.
Teaching schoolgirls self-defence techniques has become the need of the hour as they always face a potential risk of being attacked when travelling in school buses over longer routes, attending coaching classes, walking through secluded and dark areas in their neighbourhood, said experts.
“Girls are usually targeted when they are alone. Nowadays, children often travel alone to school, classes and even stay alone at home for long hours,” said Dinesh Padaya, taekwondo coach, DAV Public School, New Panvel. “Small children might not grasp it entirely, but it is important that they know these techniques,” said Padaya.
The school plans to introduce eight sessions in a year to train students. “We can train students in defending themselves in case of sudden attacks using their bags, pens, duppattas and scarves. Even simple things like how to respond when someone catches your hand or pushes you need to be taught. It will make them more alert and confident,” said Padaya.
Parents and teachers’ forums said the state government should make self-defence lessons mandatory in schools throughout the year. “Unless it’s made compulsory, schools will only hold token workshops for self-defence,” said Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness in Education, a parents’ teacher body.
Last year, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) along with the Mumbai police had announced workshops for schoolgirls in civic schools, but such workshops are rarely held, said teachers. “Self-defence is not being taught in any of our schools. The BMC needs to invest in training teachers so that they can teach the students regularly,” said Ramesh Joshi, head of the BMC school teachers union.
Some school principals said that while self-defence lessons will help to a certain extent, schools and parents need to take steps to ensure the security of children at home and in school. “Small children will not have the energy to fight back in case of an attack. Hence, the parents and schools have to be alert on the behalf of the students,” said Seema Buch, principal, Gundecha Education Academy, Kandivli.
Buch said parents opt for school vans to ferry students, as it is a cheaper alternative. But many van operators do not even follow the safety norms prescribed by transport authorities and the police. “On several occasions, we have found these van drivers to be drunk or behaving inappropriately with students. Parents need to be alert about the people dealing with their children,” said Buch.
Self-help is the best help
* Hold week-long training programmes twice a year, at the beginning of each term
* After that, to update the knowledge of the students, earmark a 40-45 minute physical education period to practise self-defence techniques every week
* Encourage girls to play non-contact sports as they could possibly cause less injury than contact sports. Besides, they can be easily introduced in schools, as they do not require special infrastructure
* Schools can invite experts from neighbouring police stations or use locally available resource persons to train the students
* “Learning self-defence strategies not only involves physically tackling threats to safety, but also the ability to identify and avoid potentially unsafe circumstances. These strategies cultivate in individuals the ability to remain alert yet calm at all times,” said DT Sudharshan Rao, joint secretary and in-charge of academic and trainings, who issued the circular last week.
What schools are doing:
* DAV Public School, New Panvel, is going to start self-defence training for students after the Ganeshotsav, in the last week of September or early October. Students will be taught basic techniques such as responding to sudden attacks, using bags, pens to defend themselves. The lessons will focus on making students alert and confident.
* Apeejay School, Kharghar, has already introduced karate for students from Class 1 to 6 last year. This year, the teachers are working on a strategy to come up with self-defence lessons for students
* Jamanbai Narsee School, Juhu, introduced self-defence as a compulsory subject for students from Classes 8 to 12 in the last academic year. Students in classes 8-10 are taught basic self-defence techniques, while students of Classes 11 and 12 are taught heavy exercises to build their core strength.