Over the past couple of years, Bangalore has become infamous for several incidents of child abuse in schools. February 2017 witnessed the most recent incident of child sexual abuse that got the local media into a frenzy debating and crucifying the school management with what clearly seemed like very little clarity or authenticity of the information. After a couple of days of mudslinging and noise, it settled down like it did in all the previous occasions. In all fairness, we must admit that there is no smoke without fire and the school management has for long sidelined this very critical issue.
Considering the fact that student well-being is an important and urgent issue on the agenda for school leaders, what is startling is that very little action has been taken on ground to address the issue. It seems obvious that most school leaders and managements don’t seem to learn lessons from mistakes of other schools, else these incidents would not have been recurring so often. During several of my interactions with school leaders over the years I have learned that schools have had innumerable discussions and debates on policy making when it comes to sensitive issues like student well-being. Almost every school seems to have a policy in place. However, communicating the policy is where very little action has happened. There is an urgent need for school to set this right.
A two-way strategy should be a good beginning in this direction:
- Policy Making
The key here is not to create a verbose policy to satisfy the regulatory authorities, but to create a usable practical guide. Immense care must be taken to create different versions of the policy for various stakeholders like leaders, educators, support staff, students, parents etc. The content should not be a heavy long document. This in fact, should be replaced with crisp content in the form of info graphs, images, films, videos, voice notes, etc. The content should be adaptable to print, digital and social media for it to be impactful.
- Sensitize the Team
Once the content is in place, the next step is to have an effective Learning Program and not the run of the mill training program. Existing teams must have a different version of the learning program compared the new recruits. The versions of the learning program must be different for all the stakeholders to ensure effectiveness. The learning program cannot be a one-time affair, regular touch points to reinforce the learning must be enforced.
While it is imperative to have the policy, and sensitize the community, it is equally important to have an action plan or reference of occurrences with the steps in place. This would be an organized and effective way to develop and further implement the policy. As most schools across India come to the end of another academic year, I hope this is one action that we will be taken up on priority for the upcoming year.