Starting early: Preschoolers taught to avoid sexual abuse
Worried about the increasing number of sexual abuse cases involving children as young as two or three years, a private preschool chain has introduced the concept of ‘good touch, bad touch’ to children in an attempt to protect them.
Parents, teachers and children aged three and four are being trained on what to watch out for and how to tackle problems of abuse. S Sofiya, an assistant manager at Little Millennium, says, “We have introduced a series of capsules for all stakeholders — parents, teachers and young ones — guiding them on how to know a ‘good touch’ and how to discern a ‘bad touch’. The subject is also dealt with at parent workshops and teacher training programmes, where they are trained on how to broach this sensitive issue with their little ones.”
Training for the children is through simple games. The teacher gives names to certain types of touch in the class and allows children to tell her if it is good or bad, by asking them to give a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
Little Millenium has 49 centres across the state with 45 in Bangalore alone. The others are at Tumkur, Shimoga, Hubli and Udupi. The preschool chain also has a centre at Hosur in Tamil Nadu.
“It’s always better to start sex education early. Even children at tender ages are being abused when they barely even know about their own self. It is very important to start teaching kids about sex education. The workshops helped us find out how kids can actually be taught all this to protect themselves,” explained Chandraprabha Gowdar, a homemaker whose two-and-half-year-old kid is a preschooler.
However, experts differ on the initiative. M S Thimmappa, a psychologist, said considering the abundant cases of child abuse, the initiative was welcome. “If children are taught how to avoid advances it’s good. But, education about sex is too early for them, and it will also unnecessarily stimulate the kid.
“Sex education could be taught at the age of 12 and 13. But educating young children about good touch and bad touch is welcome. The child is not a fool. He or she will react to what is being taught,” Thimmappa said.
H G Govinde Gowda, former minister for education, feels sex education should be taught to kids only after they attain the age of five. “They won’t know anything. This initiative might also put kids on the wrong track,” he said.
Sofiya maintained that parents and kids were perfectly okay with the initiative. “The parents have told us they learnt how to talk about sensitive things to their kids. They found it very useful,” she said.
Priya Alti, co-founder of another pre-school, Geniekids Learning Resources in Indiranagar, explained that creating sexual awareness among kids was absolutely necessary. “It is as normal as any other thing. Emotional, physical and sexual safety -- all are equally important for kids. At our centre, we involve parents. As far as kids are concerned, we make them aware in every situation,” she said.
Priya elaborated that when children touch each other, teachers teach them what is okay. Once this awareness is created, the kid is empowered. “Even parents need to learn. They think it is okay to change their children’s clothes in public, especially near water bodies. They don’t bother about what will embarrass the kid. This kind of learning is a continuous process which should be taught to little kids,” she added.
Lakshmi, coordinator at Shemrock Tinkerbells Pre-school in Suncity Apartments, Sarjapur, said children as young as six and four won’t understand what is being taught.