Schools as safe spaces - where do we stand

Mehendale, Archana and Raha, Swagata (2018) Schools as safe spaces - where do we stand. Learning Curve (30). pp. 39-43.

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Public discourse and policy on universalisation of education has primarily focussed on improving access to schools, and ensuring retention and participation of children in schools. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 (RTE Act) and flagship programmes of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) mainly focus on providing right to education by guaranteeing admission in government/neighbourhood schools and right to schools with prescribed infrastructure and teachers. However, the RTE Act and SSA give scant attention to rights within education. However, provisions related to protecting children’s rights within schools and ensuring that schools become safe spaces can be found in various other legislation, government notifications, programmes, and schemes formulated by central and state governments. In this article, we discuss these provisions and present what we know is happening in practice. Provisions and Implementation Legislations pertaining to children address corporal punishment, sexual offences against children and cruelty in schools. In the policy realm, the triggers for formulation of circulars, guidelines, and advisories have been cases of violations or abuse that were reported by the media. For instance, in 2010, a 13-year-old boy in a premier school in Kolkata. 1 committed suicide after being caned by his teacher This led to an inquiry by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and the formulation of Guidelines on Corporal Punishment, 2 which were adopted by the Ministry of Human Resource and Development (MHRD). 3 Corporal punishment Section 17(1), Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009, prohibits subjecting a child to physical punishment or harassment, although neither of these terms is defined in the Act. The Delhi High Court held that provisions of the Delhi Education Rules, which permitted corporal punishment, violated Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution and struck them down. 4 It also directed the ‘State to ensure that children are not subjected to corporal punishment in schools and they receive education in an environment of freedom and dignity, free from fear.’ An Advisory for Eliminating Corporal Punishment in Schools under Section 35(1) of the RTE Act, 2009 (based on the NCPCR guidelines) by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) offers guidance on the prevention of corporal punishment and redressal mechanisms. 5 It unpacks corporal punishment into (a) physical punishment, (b) mental harassment and (c) discrimination, and requires schools to have a clear protocol to guide teachers on tackling troublesome behaviour (eg., disturbing other children in class, lying, stealing, etc.) and offensive behaviour, causing hurt or injury to others (eg., bullying, aggression towards peers, stealing, violating others’ rights, vandalising, etc.). 6 The Advisory requires the school management to conduct regular training programmes for teachers so as to facilitate a shift to a rights-based approach to education, abolition of corporal punishment, and positive engagement with children

Item Type: Articles in APF Magazines
Authors: Mehendale, Archana and Raha, Swagata
Document Language:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Education, Elementary education, Early childhood education
Subjects: Social sciences
Social sciences > Education
Divisions: Azim Premji University > University Publications > Learning Curve
Full Text Status: Public
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