TECHNOLOGY FOR SAFETY IN SCHOOLS

“Making a decision to have a child- its momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking outside your body.” — Elizabeth Stone

We carry our baby in the womb for 9 months and in our arms for 3 years. A time when the parents, immediate relatives and friends leave no stone unturned to provide Z plus security to that young one. When the child turns three, the parents have to take the first most important decision of the child’s life. The decision of entrusting the naïve tottering baby into the hands of a stranger — to teach and to mould the child into a beautiful responsible person. A decision that was not very difficult in the days of yore, when teaching was a noble profession and the school was a sacrosanct temple of learning. Today, with education becoming a business and the caregivers themselves taking on demonic manifestations, the sanctity of the seat of learning has come to be questioned. We see even reputed schools violating basic safety norms and failing to maintain basic hygiene and sanitation. News of carelessness of teachers and drivers, physical and emotional abuse, murders and rapes in schools is only adding on to the anxiety of parents.

Parents pay the exorbitant fees being charged by schools in the hope of receiving quality education and a safe and nurturing environment. When the schools’ role in discharging their duties has come into question, parents today increasingly feel the need to be a part of the school’s management decisions. A nationwide survey conducted by CHILDLINE in 2011 shows that 92% of government schools reported the existence of a PTA (Parents Teachers Association) as compared to 74% private schools. However, mere existence of the PTA does not ensure participation and satisfaction on behalf of all parents either. In the current family scenarios, with both parents working and their busy lifestyles, it is difficult for parents to be present physically in every PTA meeting to discuss their concerns.

Hence, it would be appropriate for schools and parents to invest in creating virtual networks so that all stakeholders in a child’s welfare stand informed and accountable. With increased penetration of smartphones and mobile internet, parents today have technology at their fingertips. This technology can empower parents and teachers to work collaboratively to ensure child safety in the following ways-

· Records of Biodatas and background information of all teachers and other staff working in the school to be made available online. Parents are entitled to details of background verification of all staff members working in the school.

· GPS tracking of school buses on mobile devices.

· Setting up CCTV cameras in all strategic locations inside and outside school and monitoring of the same to be made available from mobile devices.

· Forming safety circles- small groups of students that always stay together and look out for each other. The parents of these children can network and communicate online.

· Accountability of use of school funds by school authorities. Parents and school authorities should collectively discuss the allotment of funds to develop school infrastructure in the best interests of the child. Details of progress of the same should be made available online.

· Formulating child safety policies in school and adhering to the same.

While these technical measures will ensure increased monitoring and vigilance, the most important communication channels should be between the child and the parents as well as the child and the school. It is essential that parent and teachers listen to the children, give them the confidence to share their apprehensions and views freely. This emotional connection cannot be replaced by any technological breakthrough.

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