With no active policy on child protection in schools, the students across government and private schools are a vulnerable lot, say activists. While the Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory, a group of NGOs, that has formulated a policy for child protection in schools in the state and handed it over to the School Education Department, the concerned authorities are yet to act on it.
Speaking to DT Next, Andrew emphasised on the need for the policy. He said that as on date, a Government Order issued in 2012 that took strict action against teachers accused of sexual abuse and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012, are the only two guidelines available. “Children spend considerable time in school and from how they reach the school to the environment available for them at the institutions, everything matters,” he said.
He added that irrespective of the school being in the government or private sector, child protection policy plays an important role. “While the Right to Education Act has prohibited corporal punishment, the policy drafted aims to be all the more encompassing,” he said.
The policy has also taken into consideration the challenges faced by the teachers when it comes to factors that they have no control on. “It could be about their home or the outside environment they are exposed to. However, with respect to schools, even a factor like it not having a playground can have a huge bearing because the children will then turn to the streets for recreation,” he said.
The draft prioritises democratisation of classrooms, background checking for the staff, apart from listing out the ‘do’s and don’ts’ for staff as part of the behavioural code of conduct, record keeping and the formation of a school child rights protection committee, along with a step by step procedure of action on abuse complaints.
Andrew added that concerns of teachers were also taken into consideration during the draft formation. “They said they don’t know the environment that the child is exposed to outside and that can have a bearing on them. We have taken into consideration the practical situations that arise,” he said.
A senior official from the Department of School Education, said that they had received a number of guidelines from many. “We will look at the proposed guidelines and then comment on it,” he said.