HYDERABAD: The incident that raised eyebrows in the city is that of a 9th grade student, who repeatedly assaulted a 2nd grade student, leading to the police registering a case under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act following the family’s complaint.
It is alleged that it is the third case from the same school, where one also involves a teacher who was quietly transferred. This, has stunned parents and teachers, creating a sense of fear, leading to questions about child safety – in the premises of what we call the second home.
Kusum Goel, who teaches at Sarojini Naidu Memorial High School, recieved the news with utter disbelief. “Around 90 per cent of the children are under good influence, innocent at their age, carrying out their daily activities. This case, I presume is an exception. I am guessing the child must have seen something happen and wanted to try it out,” she thinks adding that this is a typical case of negative influence.
Begins at home
Sunitha (name changed), a mother of two daughters aged 10 and 16, though aghast by the incident feels that awareness to curb begins at home. “I have taught my children that any kind of physical touch, anyone – classmate’s father, parents, other family members, is unacceptable, even if they invite them with affectionate gestures,” she says. Agreeing with her is psychologist, Jayanti Sundar Rajan of Roshni Counselling Centre. “A kid should be taught about a good touch and a bad touch once they reach UKG. Also about their body parts along with which ones are vulnerable. Parents should hug kids often so that they understand the difference,” she explains.
Another parent Roshan Singh, father of two boys says healthy communication is important. “We watch shows like Crime Patrol and when my children see women crying on the screen, they have a number of questions. We never stop them from asking. We answer them, in a way that they can understand,” he shares.
Hana Adeni, a 12th grade student at Oakridge International too shares that discussions about child abuse and safety happen quite regularly at home. “I have an older sibling and we discuss these things. The same happens with my mother too. She travels and she has brought home a lot of booklets that educate us on the same. I can talk on behalf of my peers, that we are all well aware of this,” she says, adding that though there are no special sessions conducted to address issues, only recently, “Posters that talk about good touch and bad touch, the fact that no one can touch you and ask you to keep quiet have been put up all over the school. We also have discussions on the same because we feel that this is one major issue that needs attention.”
Role of teachers
Though Kusum, who has been teaching for the past 35 years has not come across incidents such as these, Sunitha who has worked as a teacher says, girls are much safer in a girls’ school. Question that logic and she responds, “In a girls’ school, the influence of boys is not direct. I have seen children hanging out and sticking on to each other in a co-education school. That is justified because they are in an age where they want to explore the changes their body and mind go through,” and points out that in certain cases, teachers also have a role to play. “Children go to teachers and share their love stories or whatever they call it. They may come across as being friendly, but they are encouraging something that shouldn’t be,” she explains adding that behavioural testing of teachers should be mandatory.
Apart from this, the whole idea of sex education being a taboo in our society only creates more curiosity and leads to such incidents. “Movies and television teach children a lot these days and if someone says they shouldn’t be made to watch certain things, I disagree,” says Sunitha.
Influence of Technology
Kusum and Sunitha also feel that access to unchanneled information that is available on the internet is a major influence on children these days.
“Media these days is free flowing. With no one to monitor what they are watching, reading or browsing through when they see something, they want to try it out themselves,” opines Kusum. Radhika Acharya, psychologist at Challa Hospitals and Deccan Hospitals also points out the same. “Children get to learn a lot of things from the internet, which also gives rise to a lot of myths. This leads to them wanting to try out stuff on their own. Sex education also helps them remove these myths from their minds,” she advises adding that parents should not just shower children with gadgets, but also monitor the use of the same.
Sex education, Radhika advises, should be taken up separately for girls and boys. “If a combined session is conducted, kids might feel shy to ask questions,” she says. Sunitha also strongly feels, that though sex education should be part of curriculum, she has certain reservations when it comes to conducting them to a combined lot. “Children are vulnerable. For instance, if you conduct a session about good and bad touch to boys and girls together, there is a high possibility that girls may become subjects of ridicule. Having been around boys I can assure you that they are capable of passing comments that might affect the psyche of girls in turn,” she says adding that sessions that involve parents could further help in curbing incidents such as these. Roshan too agrees. “When there are parents and teachers involved, communication becomes much stronger. If they feel that parents are strict, they can make teachers their confidantes and vice-versa,” he opines.