Going by the report a school submitted on how a 16-year-old girl took her own life, we question whether the girl would still be alive if she didn’t confide to the counsellor about her sexual assault. As it is, the report raises more questions than answers.
With increasing reports on sexual assault and abuse cases of minors, the incident raises the curtain on how school authorities play an important role in safeguarding children and how they should deal with the issue.
We are not condemning the counsellor or the school authorities in that particular case. They must have done it in their best capacity and for the wellbeing of the child. That must have been the way the school and schools in the country deal with such issues.
But as a haven where children feel safe, our teachers, especially counsellors should have the authority and capacity to deal with a grave issue like that of a sexual assault professionally and appropriately.
Social workers have many stories to share on how school authorities cover up sexual assault cases, primarily for the fear that the school would be in limelight. In many cases, ‘protection of school’s image’ becomes more important than the protection of a child.
There are many teachers, who work hard to impart knowledge and also help needy students. However, being competent professionally and showing empathy towards the need of students are two different things.
Children who come from difficult circumstances exhibit it through their behaviours. Some take the risk to confide their issues to counsellors and teachers. Others stay withdrawn from activities or seek attention. Teachers could play a huge role in changing their lives by identifying their needs and addressing them.
It’s also time we gave teachers the respect that is due and also hold those who deal with matters as serious as sexual assault lightly accountable. There are laws that state that failure to report crimes as offence and school authorities, who try to hush up the cases, should be taken to task.
As a society that emphasises the importance of youth, we have to prioritise their safety. Statistics show that our children are not safe, both in schools and at home.
With the education reform still in process, there is hope. It should specify the role of teachers to protect children and safeguard their interests. Making it a part of the teacher’s professional responsibility would have more impact.
There should also be a uniform policy on how schools should deal with the matter. It would help students and school authorities. Leaving it just to the counsellors is not fair. There should be a supportive environment.
We all have great stories to share about how our teachers impacted our lives. We remain indebted to our gurus. Let there be many more children who survived assaults and abuses because of the interference of their teachers.