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Mumbai: Parents, here’s how you can ensure your child’s safety on school buses

Parents have repeatedly raised concerns about safety on school buses, especially after the rising cases of rape and molestation by drivers and conducters

mumbai Updated: May 18, 2017 11:09 IST
Farhan Shaikh
Farhan Shaikh
Hindustan Times
mumbai,child sexual abuse,sexual abuse

Is your child safe on the way to school and back?

Parents have repeatedly raised concerns about safety on school buses, especially after the rising cases of rape and molestation by drivers and conducters.

As a safety measure, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) made CCTV cameras and GPS compulsory on all school buses earlier this year.

“The global positioning systems (GPS) and CCTVs should be made compulsory in all school buses... it should be kept in working condition at all times,” a CBSE circular read.

The board also made is mandatory for all buses to have a woman staffer or woman guard, and suggested involving parents to oversee the conduct of the drivers and other staff on the buses.

While there are rules in place, the problem lies in their implementation, experts said.

READ: Stop private vans, small vehicles from ferrying school children: Mumbai PTA to Maha govt

Indrani Malkani, who conceptualised the model school bus service that later became a part of state’s school bus policy said, “Having CCTVs and monitoring them regularly is the need of the hour. It should be set up at all schools across the nation as we have the technology.”Malkani, however, said many school managements were yet to see the importance of children’s safety.

“The teachers and school managements are safety providers. It is unfortunate that they are not taking it seriously enough,” Malkani said.

The politics surrounding it is another issue.

Anil Gaad, the president of the school bus owners association, said, “The state government is not willing to implement policies set up by the central government. This tussle is jeopardising the children’s safety”

Gaad said there is a rule that children from Class 6 and above should not travel in vans, as many of them are unregulated. But this is not being followed, he said.

“Parents should know better. Just to save money, they should not be risking their children’s safety by sending them by vans,” Gaad said.

“The CCTVs may not act as a deterrent, but at least there will be proof of the crime and it will be easier to get a conviction. You could use it to take such perverts off the streets,” Malkani said.

Schools must step up to teach kids to protect themselves: Rekha Shahani is also a trustee, Public Concern for Governance Trust

It has become increasingly important in today’s world to educate children about sexual abuse, and schools have started waking up to this reality. They are educating their children, teaching them about good touch and bad touch, and how to defend themselves if they are abused.

Many schools believe children who are taught about preventing sexual abuse and protecting themselves from it are more likely to speak to an adult if they were being targeted. The role of the school has become more important today than before, as children are growing up in nuclear or single-parent families and are relying, more than ever before, on their schools for support. This means teachers must be trained to spot the signs of abuse in children and talk to them accordingly.

Schools also need to have a child protection policy in place.

The principal should oversee and ensure the policy is implemented, while all staff members should be trained to enforce it. Special committees with teachers and parents could help keep the dialogue over sexual abuse open all the time. Schools can also hold workshops, screen films and share articles to increase awareness among students and parents.In many schools, CCTV cameras are put up for show. Schools need to make sure these cameras are in working condition and that all the recorded footage is preserved and made available whenever needed.

Another way to ensure children feel safe is to empower them to speak out against abuse, and if needed, defend themselves against it. Schools in general, and the Counselling and Research Department in particular, have very important roles to play in empowering children against sexual abuse. In fact, teaching them to deal with it is the most effective way to keep them safe.School counsellors should use life-skill sessions and classroom interactions to address these sensitive issues.

Children need to be taught to report if adults act in a way that scares them or makes them uncomfortable.

It’s best to start talking to children as young as 3 and 4 years.

Teach children that except for their parents, nobody — child or adult — is allowed to touch them in areas that are covered by a bathing suit. Teach them that it is perfectly alright to say no to an adult who touches them.

Most importantly, schools must teach the children that no matter who the abuser is and what he tells them, it is never the child’s fault.

First Published: May 17, 2017 09:40 IST