BENGALURU: After the brutal murder of a seven-year-old in a leading school in Gurugram and the alleged sexual assault of a minor girl at a Dasarahalli school, parents want schools to play a more active role in the protection of their children. Once more there is a cry to implement the Child Protection Policy (CPP) or Child Safety Policy in the state.Officials say the policy is comprehensive but schools do not follow it because no penalties can be imposed.
Drafted with the participation of many government departments in the wake of a string of high profile child sexual assault cases in city schools around 2014-2015, the policy aimed to put in place mechanisms to make schools and other settings with children safe. It finally got cabinet approval on April 2016.
However, one and half years after the approval, there is little evidence that the policy has achieved anything. One reason is that the policy does not have anything related to penalties and punishments for errant schools.
S Sowjanya, commissioner, Department of Public Instruction, says, "One of the clauses in the CPP is that each school needs to have a child protection committee and child protection officer. However if a school decides not follow this directive we cannot do anything about it. We need rules to enforce the CPP." . She adds that, the school education department is working on these rules.
Financial constraint for schools
D Shashi Kumar is the general secretary of the Associated Managements of Private Un-Aided English Medium School in Karnataka. He says that the penal clause of the CPP under the KEA act is of no use as there are already law under the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 as well as the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 that deal with a punishments for child abuse and talked about safety of a child. He however acknowledged that the CPP was a more broad based safety policy. He says that the financial burden of implementing the clauses of the CPP will have to be borne by schools alone.
Anganwadis under CPP as well?
An official from the Department of Woman and Child says that since the CPP included schools as of now, they are framing directives to also include anganwadis.
Implementation, monitoring needed
V P Niranjan Aradhaya, fellow, Centre for Child and the Law, National Law School of India University, says that merely bringing a law for child safety in schools won’t help. What matters is implementing it in its true spirit, along with regular followups. "Otherwise a law, how noble, will not work," he adds.
In Kolar, a 10 year old student of a residential school was allegedly sexually assaulted by the school's cook in August. In January, the principal of a Kendriya Vidyalaya in the city allegedly sexually harassed a 17 year old girl student and was arrested for it. According to the crime records bureau as around 1,800 cases were registered under POCSO in Karnataka and around 300 in the city.
What is a Safe School?
Among other things, it must have...
… an enabling and empowering process rather than restrictive prohibitive measures, such as surveillance or regulation centric methods
...a customised child protection policy
...clubs where children discuss rights
...inclusion of child protection in staff appraisals
...strong reporting mechanisms and publicise them thorough PTA or general assembly meeting
...screening all staff
… prominent display of contact numbers of childline, nearest police station, etc.
…classes for children on self-defense
…protocols in the event of an abuse
(According to Child Protection Policy)