While the physical safety of children is of utmost importance, the emotional, mental and health safety of the little ones should also not be ignored,Hindustan Times reports. We do not measure the damage done to a child when they are reprimanded for mistakes they make, use sarcastic remarks to modify behaviour or belittle them for scoring less marks.
Schools need to work towards creating a cohesive and safe environment where the child feels completely secure – physically, mentally and emotionally. Every child should be allowed to question and express himself or herself in a non threatening environment. We are here not just to educate them but also to make them confident individuals with high self esteem and self belief.
My take on physical safety is simple. There are guidelines set by the education boards and international research bodies; each school needs to follow them diligently and not compromise to save resources. The additional step is to think through incidents that could happen and create a process to avoid them. However, if an unfortunate incident does occur, first the child’s interest and safety needs to be prioritised, and action taken accordingly. Secondly, the incident needs to be investigated thoroughly and the loopholes need to be curbed by updating the process or introducing a new one.
It is also important that safety is introduced as a topic that school authorities regularly (weekly, monthly) discuss with children to make them aware of various aspects of safety like good touch, bad touch, talking to strangers etc. This makes them responsible for their own safety.
Physical safety also involves subtler aspects like the kind of furniture selected for schools, so that these do not have pointed edges, have appropriate height . Any posters, pictures put up in classes should be learner-friendly but not distract the children. The equipment chosen should be non-toxic. Most importantly, the library books should be age-appropriate.
The teacher-child ratio should also be ideal for optimum supervision.
With regards to emotional and mental safety, schools need to build an environment where the rules and consequences are co-created with the children. This gives them the sense of ownership. All rules and consequences should be implemented consistently and fairly across the school.
They should also be empowered with information on the importance of being healthy – eating nutritious food and keeping fit.
Listed below are a few essential points that schools should look at with regards to safety
1.Securing the entire school with CCTV cameras.
2.A Security officer watching the cameras for constant surveillance.
3.Police verification and external verification of each employee
4.The entry and exit of all persons entering the school should be recorded (employees to wear badges at all times, visitor cards issued to all vendors)
6.Students to be handed over only to the designated bearer of the ID card
7.To insure health safety of children we need to have a health officer and a canteen officer,
8.Schools need to make sure the buses also have CCTV.
9.Schools need to specifically have a transport in charge and that a lady bus attendant is present in the bus at all times
10. To help and guide children at all times schools need to have a counsellor
11.Children to co-create rules and regulations with the school
12.Children need to be allowed to question the system
13.There needs to be a weekly review on food and security
14.Staff to be trained on a continuous basis, this including third party vendors too.
15.All schools/learning/therapy centres should develop a personal safety skills programme and personal health education lessons for children with special needs
For a comprehensive list please refer to the guidelines set by the police department of Gurugram. The author is founder of Kangaroo Kids and Billabong High International School.