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Mumbai parents demand policy to safeguard kids from sexual assaults on school premises

Although the state government has a policy to reduce the weight of school bags, it is yet to frame one that focuses on children’s safety in schools

mumbai Updated: Aug 15, 2017 22:06 IST
Puja Pednekar
Puja Pednekar
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,schools,sexual assault
Educationists have suggested that government should lay down parameters and checks for schools to abide by while recruiting staff.(HT File)

Citing the last week’s incident of the alleged rape of a 4-year-old girl at her Malad school by a peon, the city parents want the state to frame a policy to ensure that schools provide a secure atmosphere for their
children.

Although the government has framed a policy to reduce the weight of school bags, the education department is yet to frame one that focuses on children’s safety on the school premises.

Last April, the department made it mandatory for private and government-run schools to install CCTV cameras at important locations on the school premises. The order was issued after the Bombay high court brought up the case in which a kindergartner was alleged raped by a Dadar school staff.

Parents, however, said the order has not brought in any significant change, as at least two incidents of sexual assault on children during school hours were filed in the past two months.

“Asking schools to install CCTV cameras isn’t enough. The government needs to come up with a policy to safeguard children against sexual assault,” said Anubha Sahai, member of the India Wide Parents Association, which held a protest rally at Shivaji Park on Saturday.

Simultaneously, educationists suggested that government should lay down parameters and checks for schools to abide by while recruiting staff.

“An institute needs to be extremely careful while iring people. More than a candidate’s educational qualification, the school must screen him or her based on values, respect for women, and culture,” said Father Francis Swamy, principal, St Mary’s School (ICSE), Mazgaon, and joint director of the Archdiocesan Board of Education (ABE), which runs more than 150 schools in Mumbai.

Swamy said to save time and money, background checks or in-service programmes are often skipped while hiring non-teaching staff.

“Many schools rely on third-party firms to hire non-teaching staff such as clerks, peons, security guards. They do not meet or scrutinise the candidates beforehand, nor do they conduct any training programmes for them,” he Swamy.

Another school suggested conducting psychometric tests of shortlisted candidates before hiring. “We have made psychometric tests mandatory while hiring. All staff members have to take it,” said Albin Anthony, chief executive officer of the Sacred Heart School, Kalyan.

The school has also appointed women-only staff in the school building. “It is difficult for any school to constantly keep analysing CCTV footage to ensure that children are safe, but schools cannot shirk this responsibility,” said Anthony. He added most schools ask parents to sign undertakings, exempting the managements from blame in case of untoward incidents. “Schools will only be able to ensure student safety if they take it as their moral responsibility and not a liability.”

First Published: Aug 15, 2017 22:06 IST