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Delhi Kendriya Vidyalaya Alleged Gang Rape: Are Schools Safe for Girl Students?

"The schools are in horrible condition, and often don't even have a single guard," says DCW chief Swati Maliwal.

Updated
Gender
6 min read
Delhi Kendriya Vidyalaya Alleged Gang Rape: Are Schools Safe for Girl Students?
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(Trigger Warning: Descriptions of sexual violence. Reader discretion advised.)

In July, two boys from classes 11 and 12 allegedly raped an 11-year-old girl inside a Kendriya Vidyalaya school in Delhi. She was forced inside a toilet, which was locked from the inside for a while. But no one noticed. The incident came to light when the Delhi Commission for Women issued a notice to the Delhi Police on Thursday, 6 October – almost three months after the incident.

This is not the first time that an incident of sexual assault has been perpetrated on government school premises. On-ground activists and educationists point towards the need for immediate interventions amid a spate of such cases.

How safe are the children studying in government schools in Delhi?

Speaking to The Quint, Delhi Commission for Women Chairperson Swati Maliwal says:

"There are two types of government schools in Delhi – ones which are run by the MCD, and the others which are run by the Delhi government. The MCD-run schools are in horrible condition, and often don't even have a single guard; so, the students are at immense risk... Delhi government-run schools are better; they mostly have CCTV cameras, and the footage is properly recorded. But having enough number of counsellors for children is an area where both sorts of government schools fall short."
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Toilets Most Unsafe, Need for Better Student-Teacher Ratio

"Staff and student toilets are separate in government schools. Usually, no member of the staff even turns an eye toward the student toilets. Then, how will it be ensured that these toilets are clean and safe for children?" asks Mukesh Digani from Breakthrough, a human rights organisation that works to empower the lives of women and girls.

The Ministry of Education's 'School Safety Checklist' mandates that all isolated areas of the school should be well-lit and under frequent invigilation.

The rule listed on paper, however, is often neglected in practice, say parents.

President of Delhi Parents' Association, Aparajita Gautam, notes:

"The fact that a gang rape happened inside the school toilet at once reveals several security lapses. If there were CCTV cameras, they were not functional or not being monitored. There was no helper or school staff outside the washroom – whichever it was, girls' or boys'. The girl was dragged from the corridor to the washroom, and no staff of the school was around to see that."
Guidelines released by the Delhi government after the 2017 Ryan School murder case also state, "All toilets should be well-lit... There should be no deployment of male staff in toilets for primary classes and all toilet visits of students up to class 2 should be supervised by a woman caretaker."
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But the paucity of staff in these institutions hinders proper surveillance.

"Government schools need to have a better student-teacher ratio. There need to be some guards and an adequate number of ayahs to assist students at various levels, and while going to the washroom," DCW chief Maliwal asserts.

Do CCTV Cameras Really Help?

"The first question to be asked is, were there CCTV cameras, and were they functional? If not, then why not? It is mandatory for schools to have sufficient CCTV cameras, especially in dark and strategic places," says parents' association representative, Gautam.

All empty rooms/abandoned or secluded areas of the school, including the terraces, should be under CCTV surveillance, as per the government guidelines.

However, as per educationists, it is observed in the case of most government schools, security cameras are not installed as required, and for it to be a preventive measure, they need to be monitored.

"CCTV cameras need to be regularly surveilled to intervene in such incidents," contends Gautam.

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The Recent Spate of Cases

The recent spate of cases, inside the school premises, points to the abovementioned lapses.

In April, a man barged into a primary school run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and allegedly sexually assaulted two eight-year-old students. The perpetrator entered the institute in Bhajanpura on 30 April, while students were waiting for their teacher in their classroom after the school assembly, and forcibly undressed the minors.

The school run by the East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) did not have a guard at the entrance or a CCTV camera installed on its premises, The Quint discovered while conducting its ground report at the institution.

While there has been a spate of such cases this year, incidents of a similar nature have been reported earlier as well.

In 2018, in an incident that sparked public outrage, an electrician raped a six-year-old student studying in class 2 at a government school in Central Delhi's Gol Dak Khana. The girl was taken to a spot near the school's water pump where she was assaulted.

Experts suggest that growing awareness among children is behind the increased reporting.

"Sensitisation regarding good and bad touch must start from a very young age in schools and home environments. The problem arises when parents are uncomfortable with such subjects and are not well-informed enough to discuss them with children, especially in rural areas. This is why it is imperative that all schools must take the initiative of informing and empowering all children with the right information," says Rajesh Bhatia, Founder and CEO of TreeHouse Education.

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Mechanisms for Reporting Incidents Also Flawed

In cases of sexual assault reported in the recent past, including the latest one from the Delhi Kendriya Vidyalaya, it has been observed that the incident comes to light only much after it has taken place, say activists.

"Prevention is better than cure in these cases. A lot of times, cases of sexual harassment or abuse start with something smaller, like bullying or pestering. There should be mechanisms by which these acts are identified and reported, in order for prevention."
Mukesh Digani, Advocacy Manager at Breakthrough

"There should be mechanisms in place by which students can safely raise their concerns and complaints. Some time ago, suggestion boxes were installed in schools. But they are never opened – even their locks are rusted," says Digani, who works with government schools in Haryana.

Schools are required to constitute and operate committees such as a Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences Bill (POCSO) committee and a child safety committee.

But often, these committees only exist in files, notes Gautam.

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What Are the Next Steps?

The most pressing intervention that is needed is the adherence to guidelines already in existence.

"The first step is to strongly implement the rules and take strict action against the persons or entities flouting the rules, whether it is a government servant part of the school's management who doesn't report non-implementation of measures or an administrative official of the school who mishandles a case. Until officials are not active and there is no fear of speedy penalisation, the situation will not change."
Aparajita Gautam, President of Delhi Parents' Association

Regular and effective sensitisation is also the need of the hour. Teachers as well as non-teaching staff, like peons and drivers, need to be trained as per the government's guidelines.

"Right now, schools conduct POCSO and sensitisation trainings for their staff once and consider that their job is done. But that is not how it works. School staff – not just teachers, but all others as well – should be sensitised, given proper training on how to deal with these cases from time to time," Digani advises.

"Student safeguarding committees should be formed, which have different stakeholders. These committees should have the school principal, school teachers, parents, and even some children. They should work on measures of prevention, safeguarding, and redressal," he adds.

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Further, stringent background checking of people working at the school premises with a focus on references from their previous workplaces is a must, recommends Rajesh Bhatia, the founder and CEO of TreeHouse Education. "Monthly or fortnightly reviews of developments on school premises are necessary too."

As per the Education Ministry, the school management should designate members, including the principal, teachers, and parents, along with student representatives chosen randomly, as the School Safety Committee to conduct a periodic 'Safety Walk' of the entire school premises, in order to ensure compliance of standard safety measures.

After an incident is reported, it is the responsibility of the school that it gets properly addressed.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read and Breaking News at the Quint, browse for more from neon and gender

Topics:  Rape   Sexual Assault   Gang Rape 

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