How safe are school girls?

Highlights

How safe are school girls? Our hearts wrench every time we hear about Nirbhaya and our own Abhaya, who fell prey to the ghastly crime against women-rape.

We often hear news about girl student molested by a male teacher or young girl abducted on her way back home from school. One wonders how safe are girls in the school? Some Hyderabad-based schools speak about safety measures they take to ensure boys behave like gentlemen and girls grow up in a secure world

Our hearts wrench every time we hear about Nirbhaya and our own Abhaya, who fell prey to the ghastly crime against women-rape; but there are many more Nirbhayas and Abhayas succumbing to this heinous crime almost every day, take the recent Esther Anuhya’s case.

Every mother faces the issue of her own safety as well as the security of her daughter, every day. The fear has crept so deep into women of our society today that they are forced to look at every person of the opposite gender, suspiciously. Keeping our daughters under the wings of our security day-long is virtually impossible, it is but natural to scrutinise the security of our little ones, wherever they are going, especially the very young ones, who are gullible and susceptible to this crime. Being aware and equipped can at least help us fight against the devils in garb of normal men.

We spoke to authorities of various schools across the city to take a look at their safety measures in schools, starting from school bus to canteens, classrooms, labs and playgrounds.

Says Sonal Majeethia of Meridien School, right from the alighting point to every corner of school, a thick security blanket is spread over. Few measures that Meridien takes are: Every bus has at least one faculty riding on it. In the situation where girls are to be dropped at last, female security is appointed for that bus route. Children of all classes are never kept unattended while they are on the premises. There is at least one Ayyama–female helper-outside the bathrooms of entire campus at all times. Each floor is supervised by one female security (we call them floor in-charges). Early release of the children is done only with the permission of class teacher or the co-ordinator. The class teacher or the co-ordinator provides a gate-pass that is collected at the main gate to facilitate the exit of the child.

The security personnel, drivers and Ayyamas are hired through reputed agencies and their personal information is entered in the system before they start the work. A tight watch is kept on the code of conduct to assure the safety of each child.

Another very important aspect to implement and improvise measures like these is parent’s feedback. The inputs provided by the parents regarding any in-appropriate behaviour with children are taken very seriously and addressed immediately. Anonymity is also maintained if need be.

Meridien also believes in creating awareness which is the surest way to be safe.

Regular workshops for teachers and students about ‘safety’ help them stay alert and aware. If any in-appropriate behaviour of any child is noticed, the school counsellor is consulted to take care of the child.

This year the school also has school counsellor Subha’s workshop on ‘cyber-safety’ and ‘limitations of social networking’ for high school children.

For pre-primary and primary classes, issues such as safety on play grounds, healthy friendship, good manners, taking care of others, helping hands, etc, are discussed through story telling or life skill classes.

The Future Kidz Principal and Founder Sailaja Rao says that the need of the hour is to protect our girl child. What better way to do so, but to equip them with information and awareness at a young age?

Sailaja says, “We make sure that the girls are spoken to on a regular basis to reinforce the awareness and to remove any kind of hesitance on expressing such issues.”

The school is manned 24x7, outdoors by CCTV or by adults. The male non- teaching staffs have also been educated on this issue. “The layout of the school is such that there are no dark corners. The classrooms have large windows which are always open during school hours. FKS does not believe in staff rooms, the teachers are hands on, with the kids, for the kids always.”

Like any other good institute, they ensure that no girl is dropped last while going home and if an occasion arises where it’s unavoidable, they ensure that there is a female attendant accompanying the child.

The girls have been taught and informed about their legal rights and laws that can help them, whenever they feel threatened, in which ever environment they are. They are encouraged to speak out and express about any incident that makes them feel uncomfortable and invokes any kind of fear.

Few government school teachers confessed that awareness is very much there but sometimes girls get ‘bullied’ in the school itself, by either older boys or the helping staff. Seeking anonymity, a language teacher in a Zilla Parishad School, says teachers are vigilant in the school premises but some boys even bully lady teachers, which sometimes forces them to ignore girls’ issues. On the other hand there are some responsible men in the staff who are stern disciplinarians.

All said and done, grooming students into responsible and well-mannered pupils, reinforcing rules and encouraging them to have a healthy friendship ensure safety of our girls.

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