Why do schools in India need to form Child Protection Policies, URGENTLY!
In 2018, the Delhi police revealed statistics on child abuse where it claimed that 60% of child abuse cases reported are linked to schools. In 2017, incidents of sexual abuse were reported by students of Kendriya Vidyalaya, accusing the principal Kumar Thakur of serial offence with several children. Over 500 children of The Perumbakkam Government School in Chennai reported physical and emotional violence, and caste prejudice by authorities in 2019.
Criminal laws alone that are meant to punish offenders and act as deterrents have not really succeeded in preventing crimes anywhere in the world. While many are making efforts to make children aware of their protection, particularly about good and bad touch, the burden of defence cannot be put on children alone. International Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a signatory, requires child protection policies to be formalised and implemented in all educational institutions. Yet, less than 1% of schools in India have created child protection policies, much less than take initiatives to make preventive guards.
According to Vidya Reddy, one of India’s best known child rights activists, 1 out of 300 schools across India have a child protection policy. Even websites of Delhi Public Schools, La Martinere schools or Don Bosco institutions do not have any mention of child protection or safeguarding policies in their websites. The general belief is that these are the best of schools with the best of teachers and staff and management, and the idea of children being abused does not even fit with the images of these schools. Hence, when there are incidents that blow up in the face, the incident then turns into a media circus with the school authorities trying to defend its image and not knowing how to deal with it and the parents and children feel angry, cheated and betrayed.
Why does a school need a child protection policy?
Every organisation dealing and working with children needs a child protection policy to build systems and processes in an organisation that will prevent child abuse of any kind. A policy not only looks at response and redressal mechanisms, it looks at building a safe culture for children in an institution. It makes the organisation stronger and more confident, and hence more successful in its mission of fostering healthy children and youth.
When a educational institution does not have a child protection policy, it makes itself vulnerable to shocks. People who are abusive towards children can infiltrate the organisation through any route, be it as a teacher, a staff or a manager or an administrator. A policy not only creates safeguards in recruitment, it also empowers with other mechanisms of detection and watch and taking measures to deter any violation through a positive environment building. Everyone becomes more aware of healthy boundaries and accountability - which are signs of a good organisation, be it a corporate organisation or a school.
Having a child protection policy is soon to be a statutory compliance by the law, and it would augur well for a school to be proactive in securing itself and strengthening its image and reputation.
Every policy needs customisation
Not one shoe fits all. A policy is never useful if it is restricted to a list of ‘shoulds’. It comes a useful document only when it is operationally clear and has a SOP (standard operating procedure). For this reason, every organisation’s policy may be unique in some ways because every school, every institution is unique. Developing and operationalising child protection policies is an Organisational Development exercise wherein it is not only about disease control, its about improving the overall health of the organisation.
How does ChangeMantras help?
We provide consulting services to schools, from kindergartens to high schools, develop its own customised child protection policies, help train management staff, administrators and teachers for its operationalisation, create IEC collaterals for all stakeholders. One of the tricky issues around the issue is that a policy which is primarily vigilant on teachers and staff makes people feel insecure and angry and devalued. We help build policies that are positive, forward looking and empowering for everyone, students, teachers, the management and all employees.