Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond!

Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond: The Ministry of Education (MoE), Government of India has recommended fresh guidelines on safety and security of schools, and for fixing the accountability of the school managements in case of the safety of children studying in all schools, including the private educational institutions.

Ensuring students' safety in schools, and beyond!
Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond!

Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond!

The move comes in pursuance of the orders of the Supreme Court in the Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 136 of 2017 and Writ Petition (Civil) No. 874 of 2017 and the decision taken by the MoE to frame guidelines for fixing the accountability of the school management in the matter of safety of the children.

Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond!: The aim of the formulating the safety guidelines is to create an understanding among all stakeholders, including students and parents on the need for co-creating a safe and secure school environment for the holistic development of children.

Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond: Notably, the J&K’s School Education Department (SED) has issued these guidelines on its official website as well.

The guidelines aim at making different stakeholders aware about the Acts, policies, procedures and guidelines already available on different aspects of safety and security which include physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and specific to natural disasters as well.

The guidelines will also empower different stakeholders and enable clarity on their role in the implementation of this fresh guideline and to fix accountability on schools for keeping children safe and secure in schools, including when children are transported to and fro to attend school or go back to their homes in a school bus.

Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond!

The guidelines have come at a time when questions are being raised about the safety of school children while they are ferried in buses to and fro from schools and their respective homes.

The guidelines will emphasise Zero Tolerance Policy against any negligence on the part of any individual or management when it comes to the safety and security of children in schools.

Ensuring students’ safety in schools, and beyond!

The guidelines have been developed following an ‘accountability framework’ with the help of existing legal provisions by integrating safety and security aspects in education itself by including deliberations upon the health, physical, socio-emotional, psycho-social and cognitive aspects of school safety and security.

The guidelines also include all the laws and Acts applicable in the context of school safety and security at the state and national levels for creating awareness among various stakeholders to further strengthen the implementation of legal provisions in this area.

The MoE guidelines have a special focus on cyber security and safety for children and teachers as the pandemic forced school education to reflect upon its mode of transaction and delivery of education.

The guidelines are also adequately linked to the guidelines provided by NDMA for compliance in physical infrastructure and disaster-related issues. The move will bring transparency in construction of school buildings and ensure their safety while attending classes within the four walls of the classrooms.

The guidelines also include a comprehensive checklist of the essentialities of school safety and security and actions to be taken by the school in this regard.

In the context of school safety and security, the guidelines recognise that accountability is an obligation of the school management including principal and teachers to adhere to the laws and norms and accept responsibility towards providing safety conditions for children in school.

Under the new guidelines, the schools have to ensure that a pledge is taken by the teachers, parents and students of the respective schools to ensure that all the schools are SAFE, SECURE and HAPPY place for all.

The management has to take a pledge to support the head of the schools to ensure that no child is left behind inside or outside the school premises.

The school management will meet and interact with all students and teachers regularly at least once a week besides ensuring that teachers are sensitive to the needs and concerns of students, especially the primary class students and create a healthy, clean and non-threatening environment in schools.

Under the guidelines, the schools are asked to maintain a suggestion/POCSO Box and check the comments shared by students regularly.

Notably, the section 21 of RTE Act 2009, private schools have been exempted from formulating School management Committees but under the new safety guidelines, these schools have been mandatorily advised to allow Parent Teachers’ Association (PTA) to function as an important link in monitoring the safety and security measures in schools.

The guidelines have devised different roles and responsibilities for the schools to ensure that the cases of any occurrence of untoward incidents like physical or sexual violence, bullying, injury should be reported to the concerned authorities and immediately take necessary action besides taking corrective measures to avoid repetition of such incidents.

The schools, as per the new safety guidelines, have been entrusted to inform the local competent authorities in case the sale of tobacco or any other intoxicating substances is noticed within 100 yards of the school premises.

The guideline has come at a time when tobacco and other intoxicating substances are being sold outside school premises while no action has been taken on sale of these intoxicating substances by the competent authorities.

Meanwhile the guidelines have also stated that the schools should be declared as corporal punishment free and zero tolerance to student’s abuse and bullying. For this the, the schools have been asked to develop a system wherein students can drop their complaints or share observations or ask questions with regard to child abuse, drug use and anxiety.

The guidelines have a special focus on regular meetings of school heads with teachers and members of the school safety committee to discuss issues related to school safety and security and decide appropriate actions.

The guidelines also stress on sensitizing parents and teachers on releasing child’s stress and anxiety by focusing on uniqueness, strengths, his/her coping strategies, attitudes and values along with the academic areas of improvement and making PTMs as Child-Parent-Teacher-Dialogue (CPTD).

To conclude, it is imperative upon all stakeholders to join hands and ensure that children are safe and secure, in all respects, within and outside the school zones. It needs little reiteration that the future of any nation rests on its children, who require a safe and conducive environment to grow and prosper.

It is high time for the government, parents, civil society members and all other stakeholders to come together and ensure that the MoE guidelines are implemented on the ground in their true essence and spirit. It would be a sad chapter to see if these remain merely confined to paper only.

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