Bengaluru: They were meant to be the answer to the continuing sexual assaults on children in city schools, but the new set of guidelines issued by the Department of Public Instructions and the women and child welfare department are more a case of old wine in a new bottle as they have failed to address many of the core issues concerning students’ safety, say child activists.
Disappointingly, the draft of the Child Protection Policy for Safe Schools published on the DPI website talks about all the usual parents’ committees, awareness programmes and
counsellors in schools, but makes no mention of the key demands of parents and activists to make schools more accessible, bring in a legal framework to regulate them, keep tabs on their recognition and so on.
It only re-emphasises the old solutions offered by the DPI and the city police in response to the Vibgyor High rape in July, such as making installation of CCTVs mandatory in schools, doing background checks on staff and the like, complain counsellors and others working with children.
“The DPI and women and child welfare department have made the draft seem more comprehensive by referring to the recommendations of various global conventions. But in reality, no additional legal action has been proposed other than under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act,” regrets Geetha Varidhi, a student counsellor.
Adds child activist Shrithi Bhat, “Sexual harassment by faculty is only one side of the picture that needs to be addressed. There are also complaints about classmates assaulting children, misuse of the Internet and so on. Those working in the field have lots of concerns. But the draft has not addressed any of them.”
Another activist, Sangeetha Holla, wonders why the large number of pressure groups and parents associations working closely with victims of corporal punishment and sexual assaults were not invited by the government when finalising the draft.
“Government agencies are speaking about existing laws like POCSO. But there is a need to look beyond them as we are in a complex situation today. Most schools are now partially residential because working parents want their children safe inside them between 8 am and 8pm. There is a need for special rules to regulate such schools. But
unfortunately, DPI laws do not recognise such institutions. The state still has a school policy dating back to 1994. We need to overhaul these old rules and regulations,” she stresses.