School Safety: A Shared Responsibility
It was midnight around 3:30 a.m. when I was in deep sleep, in a village with limited medical facilities. I realized I am being kicked continuously by my daughter who was lying next to me. She was 6 years old then. I woke up to push her aside, but on seeing her condition, screamed for help. I realized it was her first seizure attack and also something new for me. All those thoughts are still fresh in my mind. Within no time the villagers rushed us to the hospital in the nearby town. After several tests and consultations, it was diagnosed as Epilepsy due to fear.
It was only for a few days that we moved to this place in Karnataka due to my husband’s transfer. My daughter has been studying in Andhra Pradesh till now and was the class topper always. But, learning Kannada was a struggle as she was never exposed to this language. I realized the alarming situation after this incident – she had developed a kind of fear that either she would be punished by her Kannada teacher or I would be disappointed with her low scores. Besides, other reasons added to her deteriorating health condition. And, it took us around 7 years to get her out of this complexity with medication and continuous support from our family and the school.
This incident leads me to discuss the idea of School Safety – that I experienced as a shared responsibility between the school community, the parent body, or the students themselves. And, as I present each of these with you, I too feel a sense of responsibility:
Starting from Schools, I find that our Ekya Schools and Ekya Families demonstrate a model of shared responsibility. Our campus arrangements assure each parent that their child is in safe hands. The school building and infrastructure foster transparency and visibility. Every child’s actions are monitored continuously and an adult is present with them at all times. Our policies reiterate digital safety, an important aspect of online learning at this crucial time of the pandemic; and so are our safe systems comprising the security, fire evacuation, and the infirmary. Besides, there are awareness drives and professional development programs organized from time to time to ensure that every teacher and administrator knows what child safety entails and their responsibility in this respect.
Now as I share my thoughts on this topic from the parents’ side, I am reminded of an episode, when I was a teacher of Math. It was the Math class and Jerem of grade 2 came running towards me to show his Math homework. Math being his favorite subject, he was always first to solve and present it to the class. But his performance in other subjects was not up to the mark. Despite the school’s recommendations, his parents showed reluctance to approach a special educator and instead provided him tuitions. I had to leave the town due to the job transfer of my husband. After two years, when I visited the town for a function, I got a chance to meet the boy. Situations turned out to be worse. Jerem did not speak much (unlike before) and now was also stammering. I had tears and my heart was heavy as the child walked past me holding his mother’s hand. I just prayed to God to send a tutor like Aamir Khan from Taare Zameen Par to bring back the smile in the child. I realized how important it is for parents to build their trust in the school community and lend their support at all times for the well-being of their children.
Finally, I bring in the side of the students: On a bright Monday afternoon, the whole school gathered to witness the finals of the School BasketBall league between the Hermine House (led by Susan) and Assunta House (led by Simi). The craze was more than the India-Pakistan Cricket match. The Hermine team was known for winning the trophy every year. But the stars favored Assunta House and Susan’s team lost to Simi’s team. Unable to withstand the failure, Susan hit her fist on the Basketball pillar. There was heavy bleeding and her four fingers were fractured. She was immediately shifted to the hospital. For the next few days, the school atmosphere was hot not because of the weather of the day, but due to the after-effects of the match. It was difficult for the teachers to bring the student’s emotions to control as every class would end up with a quarrel or word war between them. This brings me to reflect on how students need to develop healthy relationships and manage their emotions. And, it’s not just providing an alert, safety help, but every stakeholder needs to acknowledge and prepare for one’s actions in this respect.
Coming back from where I started i.e. schools. We are proud to have instilled the Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) curricula to provide everyone a safe environment. Simple gestures like greeting everyone in the morning with a smile, proactively lending a helping hand when required, and sharing an affirmation or an appreciation for the good work of others are few best practices we follow at Ekya. These go a long way in institutionalizing safe practices on campus.
Every student in the school has the right to achieve success in education and accomplish his/her goals in life. It is equally important for them to flourish emotionally and socially. And, school and family as stakeholders, need to have a common commitment to support and provide students with challenges to meet high standards. Concluding with this powerful message:
“Safety and security don’t just happen, they are the result of collective consensus and public investment. We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear” – Nelson Mandela.
By, Ms. Deepa Rani, Head of School, Ekya BTM