Schools are known as a student’s second home. This is because a significant proportion of time in a child’s life is spent at school. But how safe do children feel at these second homes?

Schools can often become places where students experience various forms of violence and abuse. This could come from fellow students, teachers and other staff, or even visitors to the school campus. Bullying, cyber-bullying, emotional abuse and manipulation, child sexual abuse, are all various forms of violence and abuse that could go on undetected at schools.

Having a safe and healthy school environment is essential for the emotional, social and intellectual development of the child.
What can schools do to create such safe and healthy spaces?
There are 4 aspects of safety and security that we will briefly look into:

The Infrastructural Dimension

A class of students comprises a rainbow of individuals. While some may excel in Maths and Science, some may have a flair for creative subjects and arts, some may be athletic and great in sports. To know about the learning abilities of your students, you can classify them as per these three types of intellect!

In creating safe and healthy classrooms, the buildings of the school and other physical infrastructure play a crucial role. It is important for schools to periodically conduct audits to ensure the ongoing safety of the buildings.
Here are a few questions schools can regularly ask themselves:

The Social Dimension

Schools need to cultivate a safe and secure culture among all its members. A large part of school violence is committed upon students by their fellow students. The presence of such violence is detrimental to the safe and secure environment of the school.

To cultivate such an environment, teachers can create codes of conduct. These can be directly taught. They also need to be periodically reminded of the same. Regularly reinforcing the message would help the students to internalise the message.
Here is an example of a code of conduct for primary school children:

The Information Dimension

A large reason for the presence of violence and abuse is the lack of knowledge and awareness. This can be true even within a school. It is crucial to directly teach various aspects of safety to children.
Every student needs to be trained in administering first aid care. Other aspects of the information dimension are educating students about the appropriate response during natural calamities, or during any other emergency. Schools can have regularly occurring drills to ensure students know how to respond during any emergency.

Sex education is an important part of the information dimension. Child sexual abuse is a tragic reality that is still quite prevalent in our country. One of the best ways to protect our students is to equip them with the right knowledge. This needs to be done in an age-appropriate manner from a young age. The response of saying no, removing oneself from the abuser and reporting to a trusting adult needs to be instilled in children from a young age.

The Policy Dimension

Schools need to have appropriate policies to deal with instances of abuse and violence. Prevention is better than cure. Policies need to be put in place that would prevent the occurrence of any form of abuse and violence.
Here are some ideas on the types of policies that schools could have in place.

Conclusion

Having appropriate safety measures will not remove the possibility of unsafe incidents. But they will drastically reduce the probability of such incidents. Each member of the school ecosystem will have to play their part. Let us continue to strive to build safe and healthy classrooms that produce students who not only succeed but thrive!


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