Do not have panels, boxes for complaints
Many schools in Bengaluru do not have Child Protection Committees (CPCs) as mandated by the Karnataka State Child Protection Policy. Ditto for suggestion and complaint boxes.
Some schools initially followed the rules but later gave up.
Amruth Raj, principal of a school in Sampangi Rama Nagar, informed The Observer: “We don’t have a suggestion box now. But earlier we had on and received complaints. Usually, the complaints were like washroom doors with no locks and class fights that caused trauma to students. But we have a special committee to counsel children. The committee has two female staff and one male staff.”
Amruth Raj’s school is not the only one that has removed its complaint box.
Sri Rangashamaiah, the headmaster of a school in Cubbonpet, said: “One year ago, we had a complaint box in our school. While clearing it, we found random letters written by students and empty white papers. So we uninstalled it. We don’t have a special committee.”
But Jayalakshmi, headmistress of a school in Kengeri, is clueless about the policy.
“We don’t have a suggestion box or a special committee to look after the students. In fact, I don’t even know such a thing exists. But we treat students well. If they feel disturbed, they reach out to their teachers and speak up.”
According to the Karnataka State Protection Policy, 2016, every institution should have a Child Protection Committee (CPC), which should meet once in three months and review threats/risks discovered, focus on complaints and suggestions received and seek external help. Institutions should also have suggestion boxes to receive concerns, complaints and suggestions.
The step was taken to provide protection to students as they spend significant time at school under their teachers’ surveillance. The policy aims to instil in students a sense of safety and well-being. It recommends action is taken against those indulging in misconduct or abuse, such as corporal punishment, discriminatory practices, bullying and other forms of verbal, emotional or sexual abuse, by teachers, other personnel and other students.
But schools across the city seem indifferent towards the policy.
B Peer Mohammed, state coordinator of the Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR), said: “The Act was implemented to give protection, safety and a friendly environment to students…. We continuously conduct meetings with education officers to sensitize the importance of the policy. They are working on implementing the policy throughout the state, but it is a tough job as officers can’t go to every school and check. An official in the department takes care of six districts in Karnataka. When we go to the district concerned, we check for the implementation of the policy in schools.”
“If it is found, that a school don’t follow the policy, they will be notified with a caution notice to which they should answer. Further investigation will take place followed by severe action if any offence was committed and ignored,” he added.
An August 2018 report published by Deccan Chronicle said many of the state’s 1,37,810 schools were yet to implement the policy. It also quoted an official from department of primary and secondary education that they would it mandatory for schools to implement the policy from academic year 2019.
The government rule also states that 1098, the child helpline number should be displayed in the campus, visible to students. When The Observer went around some schools, it did not find the number displayed in any of the schools.
Vasudeva Sharma, executive director and trustee of Child Rights Trust, an NGO, said: “There is a lot of violence against schoolchildren which goes unnoticed due to mistakes of authorities. The child protection policy is the last thing that comes to the mind of authorities while managing a school. School administration should take the matter seriously and implement the policy as soon as possible. The policy will also assure parents that their children are getting educated in a secure and friendly environment.”
Karnataka in 2016 became the first state to come up with a child protection policy. It also gave guidelines and specific roles for the head of the institution, teachers and support staff under the policy.