An interactive, one day seminar on creating a safe environment in schools to prevent child abuse was organized by the Catholic Principals’ Association of Delhi on the 24th of November, 2018 at Don Bosco School, Alaknanda. Titled Jagaran 2018, the seminar , with its focus on the POCSO ACT and Child Protection Policy, was well attended by over 100 teachers from different Catholic schools in and across the Delhi NCR region and Don Bosco Ranchi.
The Seminar was animated by Dr./Fr. Maria Charles, SDB ,a renowned educationist and Rev. Fr. Babu Varghese, Rector and Principal Don Bosco School, and currently, the President of the Catholic Principals’ Association. Sr. Sherine, Secretary, Commission for Education of the Archdiocese of Delhi, was the guest of honour.
In his keynote address, Rev. Fr. Babu Varghese emphasized that the quality of education for children should be defined by a secure learning environment and with a policy of accompaniment and care for the underprivileged or neglected children entrusted to our care. He stated that awareness about the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act and a Child Protection Policy will help us to eliminate vigilantly all risks of child exploitation and abuse in all our schools.
Fr. Maria Charles threw light on the various problems being faced by the children in the Indian society at large and in particular, in schools across India. Emotional Neglect , poverty, child abuse, sexual abuse, lack of proper skills, lack of proper support systems, all accompanied with related stress issues led to some major behavioral issues in children like aggressive and violent attitudes, addiction to gadgets, to name a few.
To tackle such varied and often complex behavioral issues in children, Fr. Maria Charles advocated the setting up of a multi- tiered support system in schools comprising of management, counselors, and teachers. Such a system would enable timely intervention, offer proper guidance and support and thereby engender positive changes in the behavior of children at school and in society at large.
Furthermore, the multi-tiered system would be guided by POCSO ACT And Juvenile Justice Act and other such acts, that would help in its effective functioning. The POCSO ACT (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act ) and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children)Act , 2015 both of which, fall within the purview of the Child Protection Policy, offer guidelines for a proactive approach towards the care and protection of children in our country
The POCSO ACT defines a child as any person below eighteen years of age and makes provisions for speedy delivery of justice to the sexually abused child. The Juvenile Justice Act allows the judicial system to mete out justice to juvenile criminals in the age group of 16-18 years of age separately from the normal course of action reserved for adults. These acts along with others seek to protect children from various types of abuses.
Fr. Charles said that notwithstanding the legal framework provided for the care and protection of children, schools also need to have in place a suitable discipline policy and behavior policy in order to regulate student behavior towards their holistic development. Such policies would help students stay informed about the proper code of conduct to be practiced in schools and help in screening out students with behavioral issues. Timely counseling, advice and guidance for such students would help in bringing such students to the mainstream.
All the information was imparted in the form of lectures, short videos, and discussions. Handouts were provided to the teachers. In the end, certificates were distributed by Sr. Sherine, Fr. Maria Charles and Fr. Babu Varghese. The sessions were very informative, relevant and appreciated by all present.
Vimal Maria Titus