Sunday, April 26, 2009

Responding to Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse in School Settings

“Evolve action plan to prevent child sexual abuse”
Special Correspondent
Consultation on Responding to Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse held

— Photo: K. Pichumani SHARING A POINT: Kutralingam, Secretary, School Education Department, with Andal Damodaran, trustee, Tulir, at a meeting in Chennai on Wednesday. P.Perumalswamy, Director of School Education is in the picture.

CHENNAI: Child sexual abuse must be targeted both at the school level and a higher systemic level, participants at a consultation on Responding to Allegations of Child Sexual Abuse in the city on Tuesday recommended.
Framing conduct rules for teachers, demarcating “unsafe” areas within the school campus and monitoring them and creating a participatory atmosphere for children in schools were some of the ideas put forth to prevent and handle the perpetration of sexual abuse on children. Other suggestions included displaying conduct roles prominently within the school premises, as also child helpline numbers and the numbers of members of the child safety clubs in schools.
The consultation, organised by Tulir-CPHCSA and UNICEF, was attended by teachers from government and private schools and representatives from the School Education Department. At the department level, it was suggested that the State prepare a policy against child sexual abuse in schools after a consultative meeting with stake holders. Appointing child counsellors in schools and dovetailing various available schemes under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme would also help in safeguarding children, participants averred.
Speaking earlier, School Education Department Secretary M.Kutralingam called on teachers and NGOs who work with children being abused sexually to evolve an action plan that could be implemented in schools. CSA was a delicate issue and was prevalent every where. But educators had a special role in combating it, he added. One of the key components to do so would be to change the atmosphere within school. Activity-based learning was also doing that to a certain extent.
Director of School Education P.Perumalswamy said the consultation was an eye opener; a reminder that attention should be paid to instances of CSA being reported in schools. He recounted some recent examples where the department had to take punitive action against perpetrators. Training on CSA had to be included in the training programme for heads of institutions and teachers. Each school could formulate its own policy, he suggested, adding that the department could draw up procedures and disciplinary measures to handle the issue in schools, he added.
Apart from the ChildLine (1098) the department had another helpline for children who need to register complaints – 044 28273591.
Vidya Reddy of Tulir said CSA is very prevalent according to studies that also show that it is continually increasing.
According to the results of the National Study on Child Abuse, study, 53.2 per cent of children reported being victims of sexual abuse.

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