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Safety woes, in school and outside

While debates on the safety of women in the city gather momentum, citizens are also questioning how secure children are in Mumbai, particularly in their schools. Apoorva Puranik reports.

india Updated: Sep 02, 2013 11:55 IST
Apoorva Puranik
Students-of-RN-Podar-School-participate-in-the-campaign-HT-Photo
Students-of-RN-Podar-School-participate-in-the-campaign-HT-Photo

While debates on the safety of women in the city gather momentum, citizens are also questioning how secure children are in Mumbai, particularly in their schools

A worrying 85% of 1.04 lakh people Pratham, a non-profit, surveyed in January, said Mumbai was unsafe for children. What’s worse: 90% of the children they spoke to, who formed two-thirds of respondents, felt they were not secure. Further, children aged between 10 and 15 years felt more vulnerable than others.

Schools turned out to be at the crux of the safety (or lack of it) issue, with only 10% of them having a child protection policy in place, the NGO reported. In fact, 64% government schools took no measures to ensure that their students are safe once they step out of the premises. http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/9/02_09_mumbai3.jpg

“Children are the parents’ responsibility the minute they step out of the school. We ensure that no child comes to harm during school hours, but there is only so much that we can do,” said the principal of a government school in Dadar, who did not wish to be named.

While many schools have introduced measures such as closed circuit television cameras, conducting self-defense classes, counselling sessions and safety awareness camps, these are mainly private or centralised schools, leaving students of government and civic schools vulnerable.

The situation is even worse for 75,000 children in Maharashtra who do not attend school at all, as they spend a large part of their time in unsafe environments, exposed to all kinds of abuse and forced labour.

The survey suggested a link between safety in school and drop-out rates. For instance, the drop-out rate is highest (11.5%) in BMC’s D ward, which comprises areas such as Malabar Hill, Grant Road and Napeansea Road, with one of the major reasons for students dropping out being an unsafe school environment. The area also has the highest number of child-labourers.

“This survey reveals the complete apathy of the government in tackling issues of education and child labour in areas such as Malabar Hill, which is an upscale area in the city,” said Sumaiya Nazim, a resident of Nagpada, who regularly provides food for children working in small restaurants near her home.

In wards A to E, as per Pratham’s survey, 28.1% children are working in leather factories, restaurants, small hotels, and zari factories. However, officials at the NGO said responses to the survey may have been a result of the national uproar over the Delhi gang-rape. “It must be a contextual response, as the number is huge. The media attention on crime has increased and must have reflected in the children’s answers,” said Farida Lambay, co-founder, Pratham.While debates on the safety of women in the city gather momentum, citizens are also questioning how secure children are in Mumbai, particularly in their schools

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Images/Popup/2013/9/02_09_mumbai2a.jpg

A worrying 85% of 1.04 lakh people Pratham, a non-profit, surveyed in January, said Mumbai was unsafe for children. What’s worse: 90% of the children they spoke to, who formed two-thirds of respondents, felt they were not secure. Further, children aged between 10 and 15 years felt more vulnerable than others.

Schools turned out to be at the crux of the safety (or lack of it) issue, with only 10% of them having a child protection policy in place, the NGO reported. In fact, 64% government schools took no measures to ensure that their students are safe once they step out of the premises.

“Children are the parents’ responsibility the minute they step out of the school. We ensure that no child comes to harm during school hours, but there is only so much that we can do,” said the principal of a government school in Dadar, who did not wish to be named.

While many schools have introduced measures such as closed circuit television cameras, conducting self-defense classes, counselling sessions and safety awareness camps, these are mainly private or centralised schools, leaving students of government and civic schools vulnerable.

The situation is even worse for 75,000 children in Maharashtra who do not attend school at all, as they spend a large part of their time in unsafe environments, exposed to all kinds of abuse and forced labour.

The survey suggested a link between safety in school and drop-out rates. For instance, the drop-out rate is highest (11.5%) in BMC’s D ward, which comprises areas such as Malabar Hill, Grant Road and Napeansea Road, with one of the major reasons for students dropping out being an unsafe school environment. The area also has the highest number of child-labourers.

“This survey reveals the complete apathy of the government in tackling issues of education and child labour in areas such as Malabar Hill, which is an upscale area in the city,” said Sumaiya Nazim, a resident of Nagpada, who regularly provides food for children working in small restaurants near her home.

In wards A to E, as per Pratham’s survey, 28.1% children are working in leather factories, restaurants, small hotels, and zari factories. However, officials at the NGO said responses to the survey may have been a result of the national uproar over the Delhi gang-rape. “It must be a contextual response, as the number is huge. The media attention on crime has increased and must have reflected in the children’s answers,” said Farida Lambay, co-founder, Pratham.