NEW DELHI: Six-year old Divyansh found dead in his school water tank in Delhi; a Class VII student in a top private school in Ranchi found dead within the school premises. His teacher arrested.
August 2015: The headmistress of a private school in Bengaluru arrested after a 3-year-old was sexually assaulted on the school premises.
As is evident from these cases, children are not safe on their own school campuses. It is to address these safety issues that the government will soon come out with guidelines, the chief among which would be compulsory police verification of all teachers before recruitment. The other major guidelines include making the governing council of a school accountable in case of any negligence resulting in harm to a student. “The guidelines are being formulated in consultation with stakeholders which are the ministries of Women and Child Development, Human Resource Development and the police,” Stuti Kakkar, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) told Express.
The guidelines would include a manual on transportation which will make it mandatory for State governments to ensure that all schools provide transportation to students and no private mode of transport like rickshaws and autos are engaged. “If some schools say they can’t provide transport, then it would be the responsibility of the State governments to ensure that children are transported safely,” said Priyank Kanoongo, NCPCR member, who was involved in formulating the guidelines. The norms are expected to be enforced from the coming academic year. The NCPCR has powers under the Right to Education Act to ensure implementation of the guidelines. They also seek formulation of a counselling process for teachers and students to address concerns regarding school activities.
The government has drafted guidelines to ensure the safety of children in schools. Besides linking the implementation of the guidelines to the RTE Act, the Ministry of Women and Child Development will rope in the Central Board of Secondary Education and the state boards.
Priyank Kanoongo, NCPCR member who is involved in framing the guidelines, said most private schools now offer sports activities like swimming and horse riding. “In many places, the person recruited to train is not competent in that particular sport.” For this, the guidelines will include a clause wherein it would be mandatory for sports teachers to be skilled in the activity they are training students in. “We have roped in the Sports Authority of India to evolve this particular guideline,” he added. Besides linking the implementation of the guidelines to the RTE Act, the Women and Child Development Ministry would also rope in education boards like the Central Board of Secondary Education and State boards.
“Affiliating bodies would carry out inspections annually and if schools are not found complying with the set guidelines then it would affect their affiliation process,” Kanoongo told reporters.
The principal of a school would be responsible for the enforcement of all the guidelines. Observing that by and large such guidelines would be welcomed, Tania Joshi, principal of The Indian School in New Delhi, said the provision of compulsory police verification of teachers would be a “bombshell” for educational institutes. “It is a good move. When talks of compulsory police verification come, it is a bombshell especially in educational institutes. But then you have no other alternative or choices, especially when you are dealing with young lives,” she said.
Most parents welcomed the move. Deepika Sharma, a Delhi mother, whose child goes to a leading private school, said: “News reports of such incidents make it very difficult for a parent with young children. If the government is coming out with such guidelines, it is a welcome move.” A Central survey in 2007 of children in 13 states found that more than half had been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse.