School can easily be called a second home for children. Roughly, 12 to 14 years of their life are spent in the corridors and classrooms; playing, learning, and creating memories. Often, when parents begin the search for ‘the school’ for their children, they observe things like the school’s infrastructure, technology that has been integrated for teaching, the staff and teachers, transportation facilities, the reputation, and so on. What they sometimes miss out on observing is campus safety.
In the past few years, there have been several disturbing incidents where the school’s security has been questioned. It has become a major concern, not just for the parents and educationalists, but even for the government, and rightly so. A safe environment is just as – if not more – important as everything else. Various studies have shown that children perform poorly in their academics when they are deprived of a healthy, encouraging and protected environment.
ScooNews united children with ‘Let’s Talk Safety’, an activity that determined how safe they felt in their education environment. The aim was to initiate a dialogue to identify the issues that require attention. Here is what the students had to say…
How safe do you feel at school? Are there specific places where you don’t feel safe? (For example, in a hallway, athletic field, school restroom, etc.)
Vandita Bansal, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “I feel very comfortable and safe at school. I have observed that our movement in school is recorded by the CCTV cameras that are present in the corridors. Not only that, there is someone physically present too, at all times, like the aaya didi who is always on the floor to monitor everything. There is no specific place in my school where I don’t feel safe.”
Arnav Maruti Lingayat, Class 10, Podar International School: “On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say 9.5. There are certain places, like restrooms, where I feel a little unsafe because there are chances of getting bullied.”
Akshara Nair, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “I feel very safe. There are people to approach in time of need at every turn in my school. On each floor - starting from the Nursery wing, the Primary wing to the Senior wing, restrooms, terrace areas, canteen areas and almost the complete school has ‘lady guards’ taking care that no mishap occurs anywhere.”
Have you experienced bullying either personally or seen a classmate being bullied?
Kshemya Jain, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “I have been in this school for a decade now. In these years, I have not seen anyone being seriously bullied. At times, I see students making fun of each other but I see it as a part of friendship as none of the students is adversely affected by it.”
Arnav Maruti Lingayat, Class 10, Podar International School: “Yes, I have witnessed a classmate being bullied, it was last year. Sometimes, there are incidents when a strong boy dominates a weak boy.”
Akshara Nair, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “Yes, I have experienced bullying at a personal level. My first bullying experience occurred at the end of class VIII and it happened when I broke off my friendship from a ‘girl’s group’. It wasn’t physical bullying, rather it was mental bullying. The day I broke off friendship with them was a very difficult day for me. They had started spreading rumors. During the library class that day, as soon as I entered the room, I saw a group of students looking towards me in which those girls were also present. I felt a sense of alienation. I went to the reference corner and from the reflection in the computer I saw them talking and then turning towards me and then turning back. I had many instances when I sat alone in the class writing poetry or doing work for the exhibition, I didn’t let them get the better of me. I ignored the taunts they made indirectly at me. I felt strange talking to anyone in the class because it felt as if they all were told something wrong about me. At that time, I felt scared to approach anyone in school. I finally told my sister and there came a time when my father had almost decided to talk to the principal about it. But I felt like I could handle the situation on my own, and I did. Today, I stand strong.”
Do adults at your school, especially teachers, principals, and administrators usually take action when a safety issue is reported to them?
Arushi Rajwar, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “Yes, all the elders at our school are willing to listen to the problems we are facing and take action as well when required. Our principal sir has always kept his doors open to listen to the issues that we might face and the required action has always been taken.”
Sampanna Satish Somwanshi, Class 9, Podar International School: “Yes, the teachers are always alert whenever any safety related issue is reported to them. Action is definitely taken.”
Akshara Nair, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “Yes, our adults at school especially the teachers, principal and administrators take utmost care when a safety issue is reported. Students are treated as the main priority. If we take the example of bullying itself, a hierarchy is followed. When a student gives a complaint to the class teacher, it is passed forward to the section in-charge who further lets the principal know about the situation. We have many posters on our various notice boards which carry various messages and our principal himself has shared the message.”
Sanchi Singh, Class 9, Ahlcon International School: “Many lady guards are appointed on every floor and in front of the restrooms, which creates a much safer environment.”
What is your school doing to cultivate a safe environment and promote safety awareness and preparedness?
Akshara Nair, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “Our school has ‘lady guards’ on each floor and also at the intimate areas such as washrooms and basements. Teachers are made well aware of what to do when a problem is reported. Various workshops and sessions are organised for teachers, students and peons working in the school. Students themselves are provided with best level knowledge on self-defense and awareness of the situations happening around them. Circulars are given to students and personal messages are sent to parents making them aware of the safety regulations.”
Kishika Sharma, Ahlcon International School: “First, our school is properly manned by attendants. The teachers arrive on time to avoid any havoc. The parents are not allowed to roam in the premises and school bus drivers are not allowed in the school building.”
Sampanna Satish Somwanshi, Class 9, Podar International School: “Our school has installed CCTV cameras all around the premises. Also, teachers dutifully supervise the corridors during the recess. Also BWC and GWC sessions also help to spread awareness about the good and bad of society.”
Kritkeerat Kaur, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “We have lot of talk sessions both at the class level and at the school level that increases the interaction between the students and teachers. This helps in making them comfortable. CCTV cameras are also installed and didis are on duty in every corridor to ensure decorum in the school and to ensure safety.”
Sejal Ganesh Pandav, Class 6, Podar International School: “Yes, they cultivate a safe environment and also promote safety awareness with proper preparedness. I am so happy that our school has started Girls Welfare Committee monthly sessions.”
Do you know whom to report suspicious incidents to? Who is assigned to investigate and report on sexual assault or school violence cases?
Akshara Nair, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “Yes, I know whom to report suspicious incidents to. Any adult I trust such as a teacher or a lady guard whom I can directly contact in the moment, I will convey the problem to them. For investigation of cases of sexual assault and school violence there is a hierarchy which is followed. From the teacher the message is given to the discipline in-charge from them follows to the section in-charge and then the principal. Even if the issue gets solved mid-way it is looked upon seriously and the principal is always informed.”
Sanya Upneja, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “We have a very nice relationship with teachers around us. When it comes to me personally, I would prefer going to my class teacher. Other than that, we also have discipline in-charges and counselors.”
Gauri P. Muley, Class 10, Podar International School: “We report to teachers whom we feel close to and then the case is handled by the teacher step by step.”
Ishwaree Kamlesh Mahajan, Class 8, Podar International School: “Yes, I have been told that if I face such problems, I will consult my Girls Welfare Committee in-charge teacher or the class teacher.”
Vandita Bansal, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “Yes, we know whom to report suspicious incidents to. Firstly, we have to inform our class teachers about such incidents. There is a section in-charge assigned to investigate and report on sexual assault or school violence cases. Our school pays a lot of attention to what happens in all areas of the school building and is working hard to make sure students are always well supervised by teachers.”
Kritkeerat Kaur, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “Any such incident is to be reported to the respective class teacher or to the counsellor. After taking details from the student, the class teacher reports the case to the section in-charge. These cases are usually taken care of by the counselor or the class teacher (someone who is the most approachable to the children).”
How do you suggest a safer environment can be created in school?
Samarth Madan, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “School needs to make students more responsible by educating them about maintaining safety and be a good citizen in the long term. Security measures can take the matter only to some length.”
Akshara Nair, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “I would suggest schools insert chips in their ID cards for tracking a child or attach a band around their wrist which can only be worn off with a particular system. Although there are chances of these devices getting lost or destroyed with time it is always better to try and analyse the result of taking such steps. People learn from experimenting. Also, the idea of ‘lady guards’ on each floor is a very good step to maintain discipline and stop students from going to places without proper reason. When a rule is initiated for a safer environment in schools, students should co-operate by following them.”
Rohit VijayKumar Somani, Class 8, Podar International School: “School should tell students to feel free to communicate with the adults at school without hesitation.”
Sanchi Singh, Class 9, Ahlcon International School: “Student council members can patrol in their free period and report if any suspicious activity is seen.”
Sampanna Satish Somwanshi, Class 9, Podar International School: “Teachers should increase the effectiveness of the actions taken by the school.”
Kritkeerat Kaur, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “I suggest that the schools can install more CCTV cameras to create a safer environment in school. Secondly, in every bus, there should be at least one female guard on duty and lastly, the teachers and counsellors should be approachable to the students and should cater to such safety related issues.”
Pragya Shandilya, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “I would like to suggest that there should be lockdown systems and alarms in order to ensure good safety of students. Drills should also take place from time to time to inform students about the evacuation plans in the school.”
Arushi Rajwar, Class 10, Ahlcon International School: “If teachers could spend more time with the students, maybe many of us would be able to share our problems clearly and without hesitation. Also, CCTV cameras should be installed in the classrooms too.”
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