Why Schools Shy Away from Background Verification Checks
The recent heinous murder of a seven-year-old at Ryan International School, Gurugram, followed by two more cases of sexual abuse in schools, has re-opened the heated discussion on school safety.
There have been various suggestions to schools and petitions to central ministers on what needs to be done. Some bodies, like the CBSE and the police in Delhi and Chandigarh, have issued safety guidelines.
A prominent criterion when it comes to ensuring safety of children in schools is background verification of the staff, both teaching and non teaching, with a special emphasis on the non teaching staff – the drivers, conductors, security guards, peons, attenders, sweepers, house keeping, etc.
Though I totally agree with the guidelines, and believe it has been put out with the right intention, there are many challenges. Some of these are:
1) Unreliable in the Traditional Format
The people being employed in the non-teaching roles typically come from a migratory background – either from within the state, or other states. Even a police verification at the current location might not be of much help, given the migratory history. Therefore, unless you are able to retrace their journey, you will be just be scratching the tip of the iceberg. There is a serious need to rethink the whats and the hows here.
2) Traditional Methods are Expensive
This whole exercise will prove to be expensive because of the breadth and depth of the work involved. Moreover, the attrition rates are high – upwards of 40 percent in this segment – increasing the total annual costs. Most background verification companies began because of the IT/ITES segment, where background checks are mandatory.
This is also the same reason many of them follow processes highly influenced by American and European regulations, which do not make much sense in the Indian context given the ground realities. Remember, we are just at the beginning of a digital revolution. Ninety percent of our records are still on physical paper, more so in this segment of our population where the digital footprint is zero percent. Therefore, unless you are able to innovate, the costs are going to be exorbitant.
3) Regular Monitoring Needed
Background verification is a point in time activity. It just says if the background has been good until that point. It does not guarantee or even indicate future trustworthiness. It must be combined it with a host of other measures, including monitoring activities on a daily basis.
4) Allowing ‘Them’ to Climb Up the Ladder
In the database of 5 lakh people that we have looked into, we have found 1-2 percent ‘red’ cases (with relevant criminal antecedents) who should not be employed in a school.
But the remaining 98 percent belong to ‘green’ category. This is a section of our population which is deprived of many things that people like you and I take for granted. They can be trusted and provided with better opportunities and services to move up the chain in a formal economy.
(The author is the Chief Marketing Officer at BetterPlace. He can be reached @BetterPlaceSafe. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own.The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)