Schools in the city are making teachers, non-teaching staff and parents aware about the rights of the child and the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act, the move timed with reopening of campuses for in-person classes.
“Since this is an issue pertaining to physical space, the teachers, non-teaching employees and parents are being made aware of the provisions of the act,” said a school counsellor.
Teachers have been asked to stay alert, be sensitive to children and ensure that no child feels uncomfortable. They have also been asked to report any untoward incident.
At one school, two lawyers addressed the employees, explaining the law to them.
North Point Senior Secondary Boarding Schools in Rajarhat and Baguiati, and BDM International are some of the schools that have organised training sessions.
Calcutta International School is finalising details of the session that will be held soon.
“In the past so many months, there was no in-person interaction. So it is important to refurbish our memories on child rights and Pocso,” said Rita Chatterjee, director of North Point Senior Secondary Boarding Schools, which has organised sessions on child protection, legislation and reporting mechanisms.
“We invited lawyers to speak because then individuals will be scared of the law and will understand that they cannot circumvent the law,” said Chatterjee.
School heads feel that with children around, adults have to be more careful. They also stressed that reporting misconduct is a must.
“We have a Pocso committee in school and teachers have been told that if there is any incident, it has to be reported and brought to the notice of the committee,” said Madhumita Seal, vice-principal of BDM International.
The committee includes representatives of teachers, students and parents and also monitoring and grievance cells.
In a session with parents, the school alerted them about warning signals among children. A child drawing or dreaming of sexual or frightening images, thinking of the body as repulsive, or developing an unusual fear of certain places or people should be treated as warning signs.
The parents have also been told to listen to the child without interrupting if he or she talks about any incident of abuse, establish trust through empathy, encourage the child to speak up and seek professional help if needed.
“Awareness is the key for prevention (of abuse) and also reporting…. Only when people know, they will report,” said psychotherapist Farishta Dastur Mukerji.
Dastur Mukerji said the students should also be made aware of their rights in an age-appropriate way. “It gives students a tool because they know whom to approach,” she said.