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WCD & HRD ministers meet on children’s safety: Maneka suggests films, more female staff

Catch Team | Updated on: 18 September 2017, 19:29 IST

A high-level meeting on safety and security of students, comprising Union Minister for Women and Child development Maneka Gandhi and Human Resources Development minister Prakash Javadekar, took place in New Delhi on Monday.

The meeting was called in the wake of the brutal killing of seven-year-old, Pradyuman Thakur at Ryan International School in Gurugram on 8 September. Taking note of the seriousness of the incidents of child abuse in schools, both the ministries had called for a meeting on September 12.

After the meeting, Gandhi told reporters, “We’ve suggested certain things, HRD Ministry too has. There will be a meeting of 6 secretaries all of who run various schools. Some of them already know the suggestions made, like making it mandatory to have female staff on vehicles or POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences e-box, which is in use”.

According to sources, Gandhi requested Javadekar to consider suggestions like having more women employees as the support staff in schools including as bus drivers/conductors. She even suggested the screening of educational films on child sexual abuse in the schools.

A source in the WCD ministry told Catch, “One of the many suggestions to the HRD ministry is that films of child sexual abuse will be shown in schools to make young students aware of the threat of sexual abuse and harassment in schools, at home and elsewhere”.

Maneka has also reportedly suggested popularising POCSO e-Box and Childline 1098 through NCERT publications and having strict norms for employing support staff. The WCD Ministry has already started its outreach campaign for protection of children through electronic as well as social media.

Maneka stated that the basic objective of the meeting between the two ministries was to develop a set of guidelines and protocols which schools must follow so that the children remain protected from any kind of abuse or physical/mental harm. She further stated that the parents, guardians and teachers should remain vigilant about the children as well as their behaviour and any suspected situation should be reported immediately on the Childline No.1098 and the POCSO e-Box.

Meanwhile, Ryan International School in Gurugram re-opened on Monday, ten days after the gruesome killing of Pradyuman. The seven year-old’s father had raised concerns over the reopening of school saying that the school will erase all the evidences related to the case, which will have a direct consequence on the CBI’s investigation.

However, Vinay Pratap Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Gurugram, who has been appointed as the new administrator of the school by the Haryana government, told ANI, “Since the school has been re-opened, the entire area (crime scene) has been sanitized so that no evidence gets destroyed”. He also said that that decision about running the school on Tuesday will be taken by Monday evening.

The Deputy Commissioner also added that a parent-teacher meeting is scheduled on September 23. He added, “Following orders by Directorate of Education to take over the school’s management, I will look after accounts for next 3 months.”

According to ANI, the accused school bus conductor and two other officials from the school were produced in the special POCSO court on Monday. The school management has been accused of serious security lapses. A two-member CBSE fact finding committee found that the drivers and conductors used the same toilets as the children. The committee also found that the building did not have a proper boundary wall and the CCTV cameras of the school were mostly dysfunctional”.

Meanwhile, very few students attended school on Monday over fear of safety. One of the few parents who dropped their children to school today told ANI, “From now, we’ll have fear in our minds till our kids reach home. The school has to look after their safety. Background check on staff should be done thoroughly. Educated people should be recruited in schools.”

First published: 18 September 2017, 19:30 IST