Following the arrest of the caretaker of a South Mumbai municipal school for sexually abusing a 10-year old recently, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has decided to install CCTV cameras and introduce lessons on good touch and bad touch in all its schools. Experts feel these measures could help ward off sexual predators and make schools safer.
Several private schools have been taking these measures since the last two years, owing to a spate of incidents of child abuse involving school staff.
Surprisingly, so far CCTV cameras were not installed in any of the 1,400 schools run by the BMC. Lessons on identifying inappropriate touches were also not taught in these schools. Just a few workshops were held last year on self-defence for girls.
However, the recent incident of a civic school caretaker repeatedly assaulting a girl student inside the school premises in Null Bazaar, has shaken the civic body authorities. The BMC education committee has planned to introduce both these measures from the upcoming academic year.
“We will immediately make a budgetary provision to install CCTV cameras in all our schools and give lessons on inappropriate touching to the students. This has been on our minds for some time now, but the recent incident has brought forth the urgency of doing so,” said Vinod Shelar, chairman, education committee.
Shelar said cameras will be installed in every civic school building. There are 453 such buildings in the city, housing one or more schools. Each building will get a minimum of four to five cameras. For larger buildings, there will be six to eight cameras. "Installing cameras in every school building will not take much time," said Shelar.
Shelar said that the BMC will also conduct an internal inquiry into the incident to determine why the school authorities did not pay attention to the complaints of the student’s aunt.
Experts said that these measures could help in bringing down such incidents in the future. “It makes so much sense for children’s safety and well-being,” said Arundhati Chavan, president, PTA United Forum. “Anytime somebody touches them and they feel weird about it, they should tell someone.”
Ideally, parents should teach their children about inappropriate touching by another adult, experts say, but sometimes they don’t because it’s a sensitive topic.
Lessons in schools also are needed because sometimes the parent is the perpetrator, said Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness in Education. “Private schools are already taking these steps. It’s high time the civic schools followed suit,” Jain said.
Incidents in 2014:
September 29: A janitor of a reputable Juhu school was arrested for sexually assaulting a four-year-old girl in the washroom. The child had gone to use the washroom, when the 25-year-old went to clean it. Finding the girl alone, he sexually assaulted her.
August 28: A driver of a private van and his helper, who ferried children to a school in Palghar, were arrested for molesting two girls, aged six and seven, for over a week. The accused were caught by the girls’ parents after one of them complained to her mother.
July 2: The principal and teacher of a school for the hearing-impaired were arrested for molesting a 13-year-old student. The police said the girl alleged the principal used to call her to his cabin by offering chocolates. Once inside, the principal would allegedly behave indecently. The teacher allegedly showed her obscene pictures too.
July 22: A teacher from Virar was arrested for repeatedly molesting a Class 9 student. The accused, who had a private coaching class for school students, allegedly touched the girl inappropriately on several occasions between May and July. The girl didn’t say anything to anyone but began skipping classes. Annoyed with the constant harassment, she finally told her parents and a case was registered with the Virar police.
Lessons on good touch, bad touch:
Safe touches: These are touches that keep children safe and are good for them, and include hugging, pats on the back, and an arm around the shoulder.
Unsafe touches: These are touches that hurt children's bodies or feelings, such as hitting, pushing, pinching, and kicking.
Unwanted touches: These are touches that might be safe but that a child doesn't want from that person or at that moment.