Hyderabad School Principal’s Driver Rapes 4y.o. — Can Parents Do Anything About These Rising Cases?

If you are a parent and are deeply concerned about the safety of your child in their school, these are some discussions you should be having with the school’s management during every parent-teacher meeting.

The recent news as reported in The News Minute, of a 4-year-old girl being subjected to sexual abuse by her school principal’s driver for over 2 months within the school premises has caused uproar in the city. Parents were seen protesting outside the school, questioning the lapses from the staff, that lead to this horrific incident.

Burning questions when one reads about the incident as a parent

It was easy to spot how the school was being completely negligent of the safety of their students.

  • How did a personal employee of the principal have access to the school premises and the children?
  • How did he manage to accost the child alone in a classroom? Why did none of the teachers notice her absence?
  • Why was a driver allowed to monitor the students when the school had a shortage of staff?

These are just some of the questions that immediately come to mind when we read about the incident. These glaring holes point to major lapses in the school’s administration. As a parent, I feel enraged that the school didn’t take the most basic steps to ensure that it remains a safe space for the child.

The POCSO Act and the role of schools

All of us know the existence of the POCSO Act, which came into existence in 2012, ten years ago. But do you know that the act outlines several mandates and recommendations for schools to ensure effective prevention of CSA?

Merely the existence of a Child Protection Policy and POCSO committee doesn’t guarantee that the school is committed to preventing CSA. If parents have a thorough understanding of the POCSO guidelines for schools and regularly question the authorities on their implementation, it will ensure that every child is safe from sexual abuse within the school premises.

Claim your power as a parent, and hold schools accountable

With our changing times, schooling has seen an evolution of sorts where we see increased interaction among parents and the school’s management. Parents are now expected to participate more in their child’s education. Communication between the school and parents is now beyond the customary quarterly parent-teacher meetings and mandatory signatures on report cards.

Isn’t it time to reclaim our power as parents and hold the school accountable for our children’s safety? Shouldn’t our interaction with the school be two-way, instead of us constantly being told where our children must improve academically?

How can you, as a parent assess a school’s commitment toward the prevention of CSA?

If you are a parent and are deeply concerned about the safety of your child in their school, these are some discussions you should be having with the school’s management during every parent-teacher meeting. Their response to these questions will demonstrate their attitude toward the prevention of CSA.

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The POCSO committee: Who are the members of their POCSO committee? Do they have any representation from parents? How often do they hold meetings? Are these meeting minutes accessible by parents through their websites?

Staff sensitisation: Are ALL their staff sensitized about CSA? Do they understand their responsibility to report any knowledge of sexual abuse within the school premises, even if the child is not directly under their purview?

A functional security system: How do they ensure limiting access of classrooms and children to peripheral employees? Is there a functional security system in place, with regularly monitored CCTV cameras?

Teaching children about their body: Do they hold any age-appropriate educational sessions with children on body safety, through TRAINED professionals? Note that improper sex education by untrained people cannot be considered an effective tool to prevent CSA.

School-parent collaboration: How do they collaborate with parents whose children appear distressed and exhibit behavioral changes? This is a tricky area, especially for younger children like the girl in this specific incident. They are not at the age where they can effectively verbalize what troubles them. But this does not absolve the school of its responsibility towards every child’s emotional well-being.

Staff logistics: How do they handle staff shortages or the absence of regular staff? Do they have remedial/substitute teachers who are equally trained and qualified to monitor children?

Teacher-student ratio: What is the teacher-student ratio, and how do they ensure that every child in the class gets due attention from the staff? It is unacceptable that the staff, in this case, did not even realize the absence of the child!

Sex Education is more nuanced than the simplistic ‘good touch/bad touch’

We cannot expect our children to understand the concept of body safety after a single conversation with them. Sex education is a deeply nuanced topic that encompasses several other aspects such as bodily autonomy, boundaries, and age-appropriate education on sexuality among others. Considering how most of us never received appropriate sex-ed as children, it would be imperative that we educate ourselves BEFORE talking to our children.

When people started realizing the importance of educating children about body safety, a mere conversation about “good touch, bad touch” was considered sufficient. However, considering how sexual predators choose their victims and groom them before abusing them sexually, it is important to shift our focus beyond this simplistic view. Maya’s Amma on YouTube has some resources on this topic in Tamil and Malayalam. Aware India has a video in English to help parents talk to their children about Sexuality Education.

Keeping communication channels open with children is key to keeping them safe

Parents are often confused about how to balance their stressful work lives and give their children the attention they deserve. It would help to understand that consistent, quality time with children beats quantity, hands down.

Young children and sometimes even adolescents often do not respond to our customary “How was your day?” right after school hours. They are busy trying to transition from school to the home environment and lack the emotional capacity to list down everything that happened during their day in school.

It is important to include a time for our children during the day when we connect with them in a way they understand and appreciate. This means different things for different kids – like drawing, role-play, conversations, reading books, and story time to name a few. All these are excellent ways to effectively communicate with them and get them to open up with us. I have found that role-play and “What if?” questions are excellent tools, especially for sex-ed. They empower our children with the knowledge of what to do when they are faced with a potential sexual predator.

Why do we immediately place blame on the mother when we see a case of child abuse?

As I numbly scrolled through the comments of a Facebook post mentioning this news item, I was aghast to see how many people had asked this one question – “What was the mother doing for 2 months? How did she not find out that her daughter was being sexually assaulted?”

This toxic narrative of placing blame on the mother for anything and everything related to parenting must stop. It is time we understood that being a father is beyond merely producing children. Fathers owe it to their families to contribute equally to every aspect of parenting that a mother does. Everything mentioned here can be done by both parents!

Let this not be another piece of news we will forget

While there is much outrage about this piece of news currently, most of us will sadly forget about this topic in a few days until the next incident happens.

Let us consistently hold the schools at a higher position of accountability, and demand that they do what they should have done long ago. We owe it to our children to keep them safe.

Image source: welcomia Free for Canva Pro

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About the Author

Jayashree Ravi

An engineer turned SAHM of two who wants to be known beyond that. Passionate about words, parenting, making eco-friendly choices, feminism and lifelong learning. read more...

26 Posts | 19,786 Views

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