Two horrific acts of sexual violence against children at school premises, have our nation’s adults understandably shocked and outraged. Over the last few years, such incidents have been recurring with alarming regularity. While we frantically share our views and express our grief, anger and anxiety, little is done to protect our children from such devastating deeds going forward.
It is important that as responsible adults, we examine our own roles in ensuring our children’s safety. As parents, at parent-teacher meeting, we anxiously question teachers about our child’s academic progress and wait with bated breath for a ‘good report’ on his behaviour. We grumble about increase in school fees or fight with the school management if school bus schedules are not adhered to. But do we engage proactively with the school’s management, to understand the safety measures taken at school? Can we join hands with fellow parents of children who go to the same school to ensure that basic safety measures such as the following are met?
• Police verification of all teaching and non teaching staff
• Accessible staff near wash rooms for primary school children
• Separate wash rooms for children and staff
• CCTV cameras to monitor movements
• Physical security check of staff everyday on entry to the school
The background information gleaned about the two acts of violence show us how timely actions by parents of children could have mitigated the circumstances to some extent:
• In one case, the offender had been dismissed from another school previously for suspicious behaviour with children. Parents had dutifully complained to the school and ensured that the person was removed from the vicinity of their own children. But they have failed to ensure that a police complaint was made, enquiry done and due punishment meted out to the offender. If they had done that, there is a chance that the offender’s acts would have been nipped in the bud.
• In the second case, other children have reportedly told teachers about couched threats from the offender. Their reports were not taken seriously. It is highly likely that these children would have narrated the offender’s suspicious activities and behaviour at home. Unfortunately, none of the adults’ radar picked up these signals that the children had sent.
Other important questions to ask ourselves:
• Have we fostered an environment of naturally open, free flowing communication at home where our children are able to tell us mundane and out-of-the-ordinary things?