Schools in town are gearing up to take the fight to the rogue biker on the prowl and the sly harasser lurking in the shadows.
Martial art has become mandatory for students in several institutions and pepper spray is a recommended carry-along for teachers in at least one reputable south Calcutta school.
Also gone are the days when a school guard’s duty would begin and end with opening or shutting the gates. His brief now includes keeping an eye out for — and immediately reporting — the slightest hint of suspicious activity in the vicinity of a campus.
“I have asked the security supervisor to ensure that there are no bikers outside the school gates. If two or three bikes are parked outside, they are required to immediately inform me,” Supriyo Dhar, secretary of the La Martiniere schools, said.
At Mahadevi Birla World Academy, a senior official supervises security at the gates once school gives over. “Women and girls are being stalked on the road and hounded even while taking public transport, so we felt it was imperative to step up security,” said Anjana Saha, principal of Mahadevi Birla.
A couple of months ago, the father of a Class XI girl had complained to her school about a man allegedly stalking his daughter. He produced a picture of the alleged stalker taken with his mobile phone, based on which the school guards accosted the man and warned him against showing up again.
La Martiniere for Girls has made karate compulsory for students from classes III to X, and so has Sushila Birla Girls’ School for classes IV to X. South City International School intends making martial art mandatory for classes IX and X and also train its teachers in self-defence skills.
“There are two designated periods in a week when the girls have to learn karate. We are also getting our girls to interact with experts on how to safeguard their rights. We feel that awareness needs to be supplemented with the right self-defence skills,” said R. Sarkar, vice-principal of La Martiniere for Girls.
Sushila Birla school holds two karate classes every week that Saloni Daga wouldn’t miss for anything. “I have picked up the basic skills and that has boosted my confidence enormously,” said the Class X student, who commutes mostly alone to and from school, tuition, basketball practice and music class.
Karate isn’t the only martial art being taught, The Heritage School is planning to make tae kwon do mandatory for its senior girls instead of it being an optional activity.
“The difference between a student who knows self-defence and one who doesn’t is easy to spot. The trained student is clearly more agile,” said Arnav KS, assistant chief coach at the Calcutta Karate Club.
Trainers say that martial art is more about intelligent use of techniques than physical strength.
“We teach our girls how to use hard body parts like the fist, elbow, knee and head to attack the soft body parts of an attacker,” said Parash Mishra, coach at Sushila Birla and some other city schools.
South City International School, which recently procured pepper sprays in bulk for its teachers, plans to start a once-a-week self-defence class for the teaching staff.
What else can schools do to protect students and prepare them to fight harassers? Tell firstname.lastname@example.org