AP govt initiates steps to make schools safer

Teachers and other staff members in each school are being trained on child protection norms, as per POCSO Act, and child sexual abuse prevention.

AP govt initiates steps to make schools safer
The main issue is the lack of reporting in spite of widespread prevalence of abuse.

By Surya Desaraju

The School Education department of Andhra Pradesh government has launched a unique initiative to make schools a safer place for students by keeping a tab on bullying and sexual harassment.

A set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) has been designed to ensure safety and security of students, particularly girls, while teachers and staff members in each school are being sensitised on the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012.

Teachers and other staff members in each school are being trained on child protection norms, as per POCSO Act, and child sexual abuse prevention.

“The main issue is the lack of reporting in spite of widespread prevalence of abuse. We want to break the silence and discuss these issues with children so that they come forward and report. That will go a long way in checking harassment,” School Education Commissioner S Suresh Kumar noted.

Suresh Kumar told PTI that school safety guidelines have been prepared under the new initiative to protect children under the age of 18 years.

A school safety committee, child abuse monitoring committee and a school complaints committee, headed by the Principal, were being put in place in each school to address the issue.

The child abuse monitoring committee will have, among others, an independent person with experience in child rights issues.

“We are putting up a specially-designed complaints box in each school to let students lodge complaints on their problems, bad experiences, etc. In case of complaint against a teacher or other staff, a discreet enquiry will be conducted to protect the victim complainant’s identity,” Suresh Kumar said.

Students were also being sensitised to freely seek support when required.

Posters on child safety, with helpline numbers, were also being displayed prominently in schools.

A mandal-level committee, comprising the local tehsildar and other officials, would scrutinise the complaints and recommend necessary action to the competent authority within 15 days.

Regular meetings with teachers and members of the school safety committee would be conducted to discuss issues related to school safety and security and decide appropriate actions.

Trained teachers and eminent persons would conduct special sessions on Good Touch-Bad Touch, untold sexual harassment, psychological counselling, household harassment and trafficking of children for sexual exploitation in all schools, including those run by private managements.

“Every student needs to follow the guidelines on the safety and security issued by the school principal and teachers. Senior students could discuss various issues like bullying and sexual harassment with the younger ones under the guidance of teachers,” the Commissioner said.

Also, students could use the complaints box to inform the school authorities in case they observe supply of tobacco, drugs or related substances inside or outside the school premises.

“Our ultimate objective is to make schools a safer place, free from any form of harassment and vices. We are enlisting the support of not only the teachers and staff but also the students, parents and others concerned to make this a successful initiative,” Suresh Kumar said.

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