The media perkiness on the recent mishap in a private educational institution at Gurgaon forced the administration to response on safety and security in schools. Following it up the School and Mass Education Department of Odisha too issued fresh guidelines ensuring safety and security in educational institutions.
This is not the first time such an accident took place. Time and again cases like students died or injured due to collapsing of boundary wall, abused while going for urinating, pregnancy and unwanted motherhood in residential schools have been reported.
There is no dearth of guidelines on ensuring children reach school and retrun home safely. As because of lapses in monitoring and accountability, these guidelines are not being executed effectively. In such a situation, issuance of fresh guidelines is of no use and an eyewash only.
Ensuring a child-safe environment wherever a child is housed or studying, a guideline has been issued by the Women and Child Development Department, Odisha on August 23, 2014.
This guideline makes the institutions responsible for ensuring safety of the children within the premises or while using any of its services like summer class, bus facilities and any competitive events.
Assessment of risk focusing on child sexual abuse and developing a management strategy is mandatory, which is being violated by many.
Deficiency of physical infrastructure in public-funded schools making children vulnerable is a key challenge. There are 58269 primary and upper primary schools owned and managed by the state.
A source like Odisha Primary Education Programme Authority (OPEPA) reflects that by the year 2015-16, 18774 schools didn’t have toilets and in 19020 there are no girls’ toilets.
As many as 44470 schools lacked electricity facility, 43514 didn’t have playground, 23491 didn’t have ramps for children with disabilities, 2995 didn’t have buildings and 19358 were without boundary wall.
After a year, the situation might have slightly changed. However, unless having school-specific proper risk assessment and effective management strategy, making school safe for children will be impossible.
On the other hand children in private managed schools may have better infrastructure, but are not safe as the schools are out of regulation despite of having provision in Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act.
Every child has a right to be free from violence, abuse and neglect – everywhere and every time. It is the collective responsibility of the parent, family, society and state, along with the institutions to ensure the well-being and best interest where the children are going to access education and care.