The growing concern among parents and teachers about the safety of children has forced Mumbai schools to drop their tight-lipped approach towards sex education. Some schools have started teaching children about genital organs using the exact terms for the parts, while others are teaching them about safe and unsafe touches.
Navy Children School, Colaba, has recently started conducting sessions in the school with Arpan, a non-government organisation (NGO), to teach students, between 6 and 13 years, the correct terms for different body organs. “Unless children are familiar with it [the terms], they will not be able to report sexual abuse,” said Girija Singh, the school’s principal, adding, “These sessions are being held taking parents into confidence.”
“It is difficult to create awareness among children. But this is the need of the hour,” said Singh.
So far, nearly 45 city schools have conducted personal safety skills programmes with Arpan. These programmes teach students touching rules – the right and wrong touch – and the correct names for different body parts.
“Children often find it difficult to talk about sexual abuse because they don’t know the words to use,” said Pooja Taparia, CEO, Arpan. “If children learn the exact [anatomical] words for private body parts, they will know the right words to be used. Besides, it will also help them know it is okay to talk about those body parts.”
This is taught through charts where the different body parts are appropriately labelled, she said, adding that students, who report abuse, if any, are counselled.
However, many schools are uncomfortable organising such sessions, which they term ‘too frank’. “We do not name private parts explicitly when teaching students. The ICSE’s biology curriculum talks about it in detail, but we prefer not to as we do not want to unnecessarily draw children’s attention and ignite their curiosity too early,” said Seema Saini, principal of NL Dalmia School, Mira Road.
The school teaches children about good touch and bad touch for their safety, added Saini.