Complaints cells, which would be formed in both government and private institutions from elementary to higher secondary level, will be set up apart from the student’s safety advisory committee, which was also mandated in a recent Government Order.
A senior official from the School Education Department said that though many schools have established advisory committees, members in the panel do not have adequate knowledge of how to take up and deal with the sexual harassment complaints lodged by both students and parents.
Stating that circulars have already been issued to form complaints cells, he said, “The cell should comprise at least two female teachers, who would properly deal with the cases.”
Though the government had set up a control room at the DPI with a toll-free hotline number and private email facility to receive complaints specifically pertaining to sexual harassment and violence at schools, most students and parents do not have knowledge about the telephone numbers, officials pointed out. Besides, illiterate parents, especially in the rural areas, were also hesitant to speak in the toll-free number due to lack of communication.
“They might be comfortable when they seek help from the teachers or school staff. Members in the complaints cell will be trained by the district education officials on how to deal with the sexual harassment complaints through the proper channels,” another official said. Complaints cells are also expected create awareness among the parents about their activities during the parents-teachers meeting, which will also be conducted every month. All the headmasters and principals should submit action taken report in connection with setting up complaints cells at the respective district education offices soon.
The School Education Department is also in the process of preparing an orientation module for use by schools to raise awareness about the Pocso Act among all stakeholders and to improve safety in schools.