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Safety In Schools

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Lina Ashar, Founder of Kangaroo Kids Education Ltd, talks about how schools need to work to creating a cohesive and safe environment where the child feels completely secure - physically, mentally and emotionally

In recent times, safety of children in schools, has become the most talked about topic with the recent incidents happening around us. Parents and school teams are panicking and children are in a state of fear. School is no longer considered a safe zone. However, what we are still extensively talking about is only physical safety and ignoring the other aspects like emotional, mental and health safety. We do not measure the damage done to a child when they are reprimanded for mistakes they make, use sarcastic remarks to modify behavior, discriminate them or belittle for scoring less marks.

Schools need to work towards creating a cohesive and SAFE environment where the child feels completely secure - physically, mentally and emotionally. Every child should be allowed to question and express themselves in a non threatening environment. We are here not just to educate them but also to make them confident individuals with high self esteem and self belief.

My take on physical safety is simple. There are guidelines set by the education boards and international research bodies; each school needs to follow them diligently and not compromise to save resources. The additional step is to think through incidents that could happen and create a process to avoid them. But let us be practical, just like a home is never completely safe, a school will also not be completely safe. When an unfortunate incident does occur, first the child’s interest and safety needs to be put as priority, and action needs to be taken accordingly. Secondly, the incident needs to be investigated thoroughly and the loop holes need to be curbed by updating the process or introducing a new one.

It is also important that safety is introduced as a topic that we regularly (weekly, monthly) discuss with children to make them aware about various aspects of safety like good touch, bad touch, talking to strangers etc. This makes them responsible for their own safety.

Physical safety also involves subtler aspects like the kind of furniture selected, so that they do not have pointed edges, the height is appropriate, the colors and interiors chosen are learner friendly and do not distract the children. The equipment chosen is non toxic, is not psychologically damaging for e.g. parts of the equipment can be separated or pulled apart, the library books selected are age appropriate. Most importantly teacher-child ratio is ideal for optimum supervision.

With regards to the emotional and mental safety, schools need to build an environment where the rules and consequences are co-created with the children. This gives them the sense of ownership. All rules and consequences should be implemented consistently and fairly across the school. They should be empowered with the importance of being healthy – eating nutritious food and keeping fit.

Listed below are a few essential points that schools should look at with regards to safety
1    Securing the entire school with CCTV cameras.
2    A security officer watching the cameras for constant surveillance.
3    Police verification and external verification of each employee
4    The entry and exit of all persons entering the school should be recorded (employees to wear batches at all times, visitor cards issued to all vendors)
5    ID cards to be issued to students and parents/guardian.
6    Students to be handed over only to the designated bearer of the ID card
7    To insure health safety of children we need to have a health officer and a canteen officer
8    Schools need to make sure the buses also have CCTV.
9    Schools need to specifically have a transport in charge and that a lady bus attendant is present in the bus at all times
10     To help and guide children at all times schools need to have a counsellor
11    Children to co-create rules and regulations with the school
12     Children need to be allowed to question the system.
13     There needs to be a weekly review on food and security
14     Staff to be trained on a continuous basis, this including third party vendors too.
15     All Schools/Learning/Therapy Centres should develop a personal safety skills programme and personal health education lessons for children with special needs.

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