Do We Need CCTVs in Classrooms? Experts, Parents on Delhi Govt's New Plan
CCTV cameras will be installed in classrooms and guardians will be given a link to view live footage.
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"It is a good thing that parents will have CCTV footage of our classrooms – students will not be able to bunk classes anymore," says Sneha Pandey, a Class 12 student of a government school in Rohini's Sector 9.
"But if the same was done when I was in Class 2 or 3, I would have been very scared. I would not have been myself," she adds.
Sneha is among the many students who will come under the ambit of the Delhi government's plan to provide CCTV footage of students to parents.
While students and parents have mixed opinions, experts raise questions about privacy and the behavioural changes the surveillance might cause among children.
According to a by The Indian Express, government officials said on Tuesday, 5 July, that they would be installing CCTV cameras in classrooms and provide a link to parents and guardians to view the live footage.
The Delhi government announced the plan in 2019, with the aim to increase security in schools.
In 2019, officials said that parents could access the live feed via an app. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said at the time:
"CCTVs not only serve to give us important evidence needed to nab culprits and ensure strict punishment, but they also create a system of deterrence. In today's environment, when children step outside the house, parents are anxious about whether their child will return home safely. With this CCTV project, they can check during the day whether their child is safely inside the classroom."
Kejriwal had kicked off the plan with an inauguration at Shaheed Hemu Kalani Sarvodaya Vidyalaya in Lajpat Nagar. He had added that the plan would stop children from skipping classes and help with the overall discipline in class.
Will It Make Students Safer?
Urmila Devi, who has a daughter in Class 5 and a son in Class 6, both in government schools at Karala village in Delhi, told The Quint, "I would be happy to know what is happening in my children's classes. They will be safer in classes, and it will also help them get more disciplined."
However, according to Anushka Jain, Associate Policy Counsel (Surveillance & Transparency) at Internet Freedom Foundation, security becomes a question since anyone in the family can access the footage through phones and computers.
"Even if the system isn't hacked, you don't know who's thinking of committing a crime. For example, a college-going adult falls in love with a schoolgirl in his younger brother's class. Would you want him to have access to her footage through the parent's phone?"Anushka Jain, Associate Policy Counsel (Surveillance & Transparency) at Internet Freedom Foundation
She added that there were too many permutations and combinations in the given situation. It is also possible that parents have ill-intent towards other children at school, she said.
What About a Child's Right to Privacy?
According to Kamesh Shekar, Programme Manager – Privacy & Data Governance Vertical, The Dialogue, the plan is problematic against the backdrop of the absence of data protection regulation and robust surveillance reform in India.
"In addition, children's data is more sensitive and vulnerable to abuse, like Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), which exploits the children's footage, needing additional safeguard and protection."Kamesh Shekar, Programme Manager – Privacy & Data Governance Vertical, The Dialogue
According to Delhi government officials, parents will be given links of the footage and warned of the misuse of footage. They will be given a consent form by the heads of schools. After receiving consent, the school heads will compile details in an excel sheet and submit it to the Public Works Department (PWD), which is tasked with implementing the project.
However, it is not clear what will be done in case certain parents do not consent to the programme. "If there are 20 children in a classroom and two parents don't consent, then will their children be removed from the classroom? How is that going to play out?" Anushka Jain pointed out.
Parents will also be warned of action against misuse of the footage. They are also asked to pledge that they would not share passwords with a third party.
Advocate Ashok Agarwal, who works primarily with cases primarily in the education sector, said, "It is clear that the Delhi government is apprehensive about misuse. So, unless the plan is foolproof, it is not in the best interest of a child’s education. In fact, it can be quite damaging for children."
Will It Induce Behavioural Changes Among Children?
Satya Prakash, Delhi President of the All India Parents' Association, said that parents were happy with the initiative as they would know how their children were performing and whether they were attending classes.
However, he added, "Parents are also concerned that children might become like puppets. They should not go to school and behave like machines."
"There is a way a student interacts with a fellow student or with a teacher. Children have a right to leisure, too. Sometimes, they are excited, jumping around – and maybe even naughty. But that is the point of classrooms. If they are constantly under surveillance, this might reduce the openness between students and change the meaning of classrooms."Satya Prakash, Delhi President of the All India Parents’ Association
According to this MIT which analysed the impact that surveillance can have on children, it is likely to make children more suspicious, give rise to a 'culture of fear' and impact their development.
An excerpt from the study states: "…constant monitoring can work against children's developmental needs and can make it harder for them to become more resilient (Livingstone 2009). It may also work against creating the kinds of trusting relationships that encourage children to comply with adult rules. Kerr and Stattin (2000) report that monitoring children does not encourage pro-social behaviour; instead, children are more likely to behave in pro-social ways when they are able to voluntarily disclose information to adults with whom they share a bond of trust."
Additionally, this might have dire impacts on neurodivergent children or children exploring their sexuality.
Radhika Jhalani, Counsel at Software Freedom Law Centre, India, said, "School is a time where we grapple with our own identities. There are children whose parents are abusive. There are children who have mental health problems. There are children who are trying to figure out their own sexual identities."
"The most important question is, why does this need to be done? You can't fix a broken society with technology."Radhika Jhalani, Counsel at Software Freedom Law Centre
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Topics: CCTV Cameras CCTV Footage Surveillance
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