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Need of strong focus on prevention of child sexual abuse in schools under National Education Policy-2020

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New reforms in the National Education Policy 2020 aim to address the aspirational goals of 21st century, keeping in mind the sustainable development goals by putting much emphasis on creative potential of an individual, holding the country’s traditional and value systems as foundational blocks.

NEP20 sets for an individual to develop not only cognitive capacities but also social, ethical, and emotional capacities and dispositions. Highlighted in NEP 8.11 which mentions safety and rights of a girl child and the abuses based on substance and gender based violence primarily. It intents for the need to develop such processes which are effective and are measured. 

This article therefore focuses on the measures taken worldwide for the safety of girl child from early childhood to adolescent years which we should expect by our country to include safeguarding female children against social, emotional and physical trauma they have been facing during their school days, either in boarding schools where the chances of assault are more and day scholar students who are subjected to molestation as well. According to a 2018 research CSA (Child Sexual Abuse)– contact, non contact and forced-draws attention to the magnitude and severity of the ongoing epidemic in India. The reviewed literature estimates that 4–41% of the girls and 10–55% of the boys in school and college samples have experienced one form (contact, on-contact, forced) of CSA in India.

Unfortunately the above figures are just the fractions of reported cases, large number of cases in India go unreported for the stigma associated with it, leading to the prolonged mental trauma in a girl child affecting her future self in several ways. (Child Abuse Study 2007 by Government of India) shows that 1 in 2 children in India experience some form of sexual abuse, of which 60% happens at schools.

Therefore, it is critical that for prevention of child sexual abuse various measures should be taken up involving government and other stakeholders at the ground level, including communities at school and society at large. One of the primary strategies that is most effective in the prevention of child sexual abuse is school-based educational programs.

NEP -1986 on the same grounds sighted the need for Safety Measures for female students, to be implemented largely in rural areas. Which includes, preferring and recruiting female teachers at school level to build the confidence in parents, reluctant to send the girls to the school.

Also included the NIEPA and appropriate state level agencies, to establish a program to sensitize teachers, trainers, planners and administrators on women’s issues as a major program through in-service training and refresher courses.

NIEPA should also have a strong cell for planning and execution of these programs. 

NIEPA entails a sexual harassment committee constituted under it, addressing the prevailing safety issues, but statistics show that assault against girl child at schools have only increased, reported until 2010. Residential Schools are at higher risk of  these unfortunate events when children are not under the protection of their parents directly.

Since, CSA is the issue pertaining in both rural and urban schools, there is an indispensable need to combat these challenges in educational institutions besides the various NGOs addressing and working towards it. 

There are various measures taken in other countries facing the unfortunate situation on similar grounds for adolescents which includes

  1. The role of teachers to take a stand against inappropriate behaviors, when reported and realize that harassment is not an acceptable adolescent behavior. Report it to the Parents and implement plants to educate students, themselves and parents.
  2. Setting up a cell in the school itself to report the CSA cases by the parents or adolescent Students against a faculty or peer.
  3. Emphasize on the matter by welcoming guest speakers and educate on the various Aspects of CSA.
  4. Appointing counselors at School at unhesitant reach to discuss and further deal with Mental trauma. Unless unresolved emotional wounds can lead to various other higher mentally damaging symptoms later in life.
  5. Report peer harassment : the student must learn to be Strong and assertive and should be asked to stop when it crosses boundaries. The bystanders should be moral spectators and speak when they watch certain things happening around the school.

    Safety measures for a girl child up to the age of 10: Identifying and protecting the children at an early childhood age is challenging since they are innocent, not aware of the CSA- signs and are not educated on Sexual assault. Still when subjected, it leaves a harmful impact on the overall personality of the child. While a lot of measures can be taken by school but Parents can play a crucial role for protecting children from a very young age. Further to the Signs and symptoms, Parents are ought to be aware of certain physical and Behavioral signs which can indicate the assault. Schools in this matter should therefore  take an initiative to train the parents to teach their child to identify and report the CSA.
  6. Adolescence:  India largely still breathes within the boundaries of patriarchal societies and to address the abuse and exploitation of women and girls, there is an urgent need to understand  the situation  better and control the unwanted behaviors.

According to a research, Girls in adolescence are subjected to the below most common listed behavior making school time an unpleasant/uncomfortable/traumatic experience.

  1. Eve teasing and molestation prevailing mostly in the suburbs and by peers or the people. On the way to and from school making education a frightening experience, increasing the dropout rates.
  2. Differently abled girls become the  soft target for people from outside coming to the school or even the support staff,” 
  3. Dirty Rumouring/conspiration/bullying and negative peer pressure often hinders a healthy education environment, leaving a drastic impact on a student’s overall development.
  4. Fear to raise the voices as they are generally hushed or damped to protect a school’s
    reputation.
    The need is to have policies under child protection which can strengthen the safety around CSA , which includes strong training and background verification for the school staff, Sex education, and impromptu  Surveys to have a check on Educational Institutes , and premises equipped with Surveillance devices. 

-Written By : Anshul Dixit

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