Sexual abuse: Child rights panel’s directions remain on paper at Chandigarh schools
The rape of a 10-year-old city girl has once again put focus on the importance of making children aware of sexual abuse.punjab Updated: Jul 26, 2017 16:52 IST
‘B’ stands for ‘bad touch’ and ‘G’ for good touch is what students are supposed to be taught in government schools to make them aware of sexual abuse.
But 33 of 115 government schools in the city do not even have a counsellor to listen to the complaints of students.
The rape of a 10-year-old city girl has once again put focus on the importance of making children aware of sexual abuse. She was violated repeatedly by her maternal uncle over seven months, leaving her pregnant.
It’s been two months since the Chandigarh Commission for Protection of Child Rights (CCPCR) asked each school to form a child-friendly committee to discuss issues like ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ with children, starting from kindergarten. But most schools are yet to implement the directions.
Counsellors were asked to fill a pro forma on the basis of their interaction with kids and schools were even asked to place complaint boxes on each floor — preferably in toilets — so that students can come forward without fear.
However, counsellors who talked to HT said nothing has happened so far. Not a single complaint box has been kept in toilets, they say, seeking anonymity.
‘Heads more concerned about school image’
The CCPCR advisory stated that any complaint, whether received through the complaint box or otherwise, is supposed to be reported to the school complaint committee in writing within 24 hours.
The committee has been directed to carry out a preliminary investigation and submit its report to the principal within four days. The committee was also told to report the issue to the UT police immediately. In case the school does not report or abets any offence, the panel has warned of strict action.
One of the counsellors told HT that school heads don’t even allow them to submit a direct complaint to the police as they fear it will spoil the institute’s image.
The schools were also directed to have a clear protocol to guide teachers to assess changes in children’s behaviour. They are supposed to seek the counsellor’s intervention or report the matter to the school head and parents immediately in case of sensing any problem. Sharing an incident, a counsellor said girls do come up with their problems often.
“A Class-7 girl came up to me once and said, ‘Ma'am, the boy in the other row told me that he wants a kiss’,” said the councellor. “These kind of problems begin from Class 6 and girls do complain about them. It becomes important for the counsellor to deal with such instances delicately. But many schools don’t even have a permanent counsellor."
“I make sure that I talk to the students individually over sensitive issues and built trust so that they can share their concerns,” said another counsellor working at a government school in the city’s periphery. “However, placing the complaint boxes in toilets is the responsibility of the principals. No such initiative has been taken so far in most peripheral schools.” The counsellor alleged the UT education department is least bothered about the quality of counselling in schools. “In the past two years, the department has not asked us to submit any report,” said the counsellor.
Moreover, counsellors complained they had no incentive to work in schools. Even their paltry salaries are pending for four months, they alleged.
POCSO e-button to rescue
As per the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), child sexual offences often go unreported because of social stigma and lack of awareness.
Government schoolchildren are considered to be the most vulnerable, at both school and home. The POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses) cell set up in the CCPCR received 57 cases of sexual harassment in the first three months of this year. In order to monitor such cases, the NCPCR has added a POCSO e-button on its website. It enables the child to register the complaint by visiting the website (http://ncpcr.gov.in/) and clicking the e-button present prominently on the main page.