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Schools 'stuck' on teachers

Calcutta: Missionary-run schools are forced to employ male dance teachers because there aren't enough employable female candidates to teach the western dance forms in their performing arts curriculum, according to heads of several such institutions.

The Association of Christian Schools in West Bengal is considering proposals to maintain their "traditions" without compromising safety in the wake of the alleged sexual abuse of a Class II girl by a male dance teacher in a Deshapriya Park school.

The Deshapriya Park school, run by missionaries, had retained the services of the accused till end-February.

"Finding a female teacher for western music isn't a problem, but teachers qualified to teach western dance are mostly male," the head of a girls' school said on Monday.

A few schools propose to continue with male dance teachers, but might make it mandatory for a female assistant to be present during classes. The rest plan to have only female dance teachers. "We want every student to learn western dance from the primary level. This has been the practice in our school for many decades. But we might have to stop teaching western dance given the situation where we can't have male teachers," said the principal of a missionary-run institution in south Calcutta.

The principal of another school said it was compulsory for every student on that campus to learn contemporary western dance from the primary level. The school recently interviewed two women for the post of dance teacher but did not find them suitable.

"Both candidates were disqualified because they were unable to perform when the interviewers asked them to show certain forms of western dance like hip-hop and some variants of ballet," the principal said.

Challenges like these will be discussed in a meeting of the governing body of the association of schools run by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches later this month.

"The founder bodies of the church-run schools are worried about the recent incidents that have taken place in some institutions. The Christian missionary schools have earned their reputation after years of dedicated service in the field of education. We want the schools to retain this reputation. The issue regarding having male teachers in girls' schools will be placed for discussion in the meeting of the association so that we find a solution to the problem," said Father Moloy D'Costa, the general secretary of the association.

Guardians protesting the alleged sexual assault on a Class II girl by a male dance teacher have blamed the school's failure to comply with safety guidelines for the incident. The accused had allegedly been touching the child inappropriately after luring her with chocolates and taking her for dance classes alone.

This is the third such incident reported in six months, including the alleged sexual assault on a child by two PT teachers in a Regent Park school. Before that, a member of the cleaning staff in a Behala school had been arrested on charges of aggravated sexual assault on a student.

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