Two recent incidents of sexual harassment of students by teachers in Jharkhand could be just the tip of the iceberg, activists have warned, pointing out the absence of counselling committees in government schools.
The state was left in a state of shock a few weeks ago after two back-to-back incidents in government-run schools in Giridih and Bokaro districts wherein teachers sought sexual favours respectively from minor girls.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), as many as 129 cases of crime against children were reported in Jharkhand in 2013. The 2014 report is yet to be released.
Child rights activists said that unlike private schools, none of the government schools have counselling committees that could raise awareness among students about their rights and encourage them to raise their voice against such crimes.
“The general tendency seen in parents and teachers is to ignore such incidents even if the children speak up. It is a positive sign that cases are now being reported,” said Sanjay Mishra, senior member, state commission for protection of child rights.
Mishra said that counselling bodies at government schools was a must to ensure more cases are reported. There are also provisions for such committees in the Right to Education Act of 2009, he said. Rising incidents of alleged sexual assault by teachers on school students have emerged as a major problem across the country.
On February 3, a school teacher was arrested in Lucknow on charges of raping a class 12 student. Earlier in January, a school teacher was accused of raping a six-year-old in Delhi, sending shock waves through the country.
State human resource development secretary Aradhna Patnaik said the state was planning to introduce counselling sessions and form panels for the same at all government schools by next year.
She said the HRD department had tested the response to the proposed committees during a dry run at Khunti and Ranchi districts. “We will have a full-fledged counselling committee in each school by next year,” she added.