Monday, June 28, 2010
“I have the right to be myself and to have the freedom to learn, work and play without
having my heart, my head or my body hurt.” Christina Mattise, elementary counselor in her
developmental guidance program
Initiating their children into formal schooling can be quite an emotional moment for
parents. The realization of the stellar role played by an educational institution in a pupil’s life
imbues parents with the confidence of entrusting the responsibility of educating their wards
to complete strangers. The school as looked upon by parents and society at large is not just an
edifice but a nurturing cocoon that moulds students who eventually emerge as enlightened and
successful individuals on completion of their schooling years.
Given the kind of faith and trust reposed in it, the onus rests entirely on the school to provide
an environment which is conducive to the development of the child; an environment that allows
all students to achieve their maximum potential-academically, personally and socially. The
primary task of a school is undoubtedly imparting of education to its pupils. However, academic
success is inextricably linked with the physical, mental and psychological health of the student. It
would be naïve to expect learning outcomes in case the student perceives a threat to his safety
and wellbeing at school. An unpleasant/traumatic experience in school can scar a child for life.
At this juncture it is imperative to realize and accept that schools have not always proved to
be safe havens. Though the danger to a child’s physical safety may be most palpable, it is crucial
to realize the importance of emotional and psychological health of a child. Creating safe schools
involves more than just the physical safety of students. A nurturing emotional environment is
indispensable for fostering growth and development. The sense of belonging, self esteem and
acceptance that accrues from an appropriate emotional environment significantly contributes
to success and achievement.
In the face of the alarming rise in the spate of incidents that threaten school safety, it
becomes necessary to address the issue at the earliest. The overarching challenge is to provide
an environment devoid of any real or perceptible threat. My experience over the years as an
educator and administrator has provided me with an insight and understanding of the myriad
factors that may endanger safety and hamper development. Though safety concerns may be
school specific and may assume diverse forms, there are certain broad parameters which can be
considered as relevant to all. I have endeavored to enumerate a few measures that are vital to
countering threat and cultivating a safe environment:
= Identification of areas where security concerns exist
The foremost step is to identify the areas/factors that pose a threat to students’ safety. While
enlisting the same, care must be taken to include factors both within and outside the school
= Planning in Advance
Systematic and advance planning is crucial for successfully countering/averting any
disaster. Preparedness is of vital importance. Strict adherence and continuous verification of
the laws prescribed by the government regarding safety should be the moral obligation of the
school. Any advisory on safety should be complied with. Any resources required for effective
management of a crisis situation should be in place. The school should be in constant touch
with agencies operating in the field for mock drill training of teachers and students. Fire
management, earthquake and flood management, structural and constructional safety,
trauma management, safety of the challenged should be the foremost priority of an institute.
Areas like internet safety, peer pressure etc. should not be neglected. Counseling sessions and
staging of street plays can be effectively used to enlighten the students and assuage any fears
they might be harboring.
= Coordinated effort
A sincere and coordinated effort from the side of all stakeholders involved is imperative for
promoting safety in schools.
Teachers - Emotional and psychological safety comes from the trusting relationship nurtured
by a teacher. The experiencing of a ‘trusting relationship’ with their teacher is psychologically
significant for pupils and can help overcome any emotional issues or problems confronting the
pupils. The development of trust and respect are a fundamental pedagogic responsibility of the
teacher, as they help to establish ‘conditions of learning’ in the classroom.
Students- The pupils should be made partners in addressing safety issues. Preparedness
should be initiated from the early years of school education as it is an age where children are
most adaptable. It is necessary to augment their awareness and understanding of threat from
different quarters and the means to thwart them. Counseling sessions and street plays can be
effectively used to enlighten the students and assuage their fears. Workshops and mock drills
should be conducted.
Many schools have successfully initiated students into traffic duty. Similarly, their energy can
be channeled to address safety issues.
Parents - A coordinated effort between the parents and teachers is necessary to comprehend
and address any problem faced by the child. Parents have every right to understand what is
happening to their children at school, and teachers have the responsibility to share that
information without prejudicial judgment.... Such communication, which can only be in a child's
interest, is not possible without mutual trust between parent and teacher.
Agencies/Organization- The school should be in constant touch with agencies working in
the field so as to update their knowledge and get a better understanding of the issues. Exchange
of information with other schools can be of immense help. Community involvement should be
= Effective implementation-
Teams of teacher-student volunteers should be trained for crisis management in different
areas. They should be able to successfully handle a perilous situation.
= Right attitude –
Even the best of measures will fall flat in the absence of desirable attitude. A realization of the
gravity of the issue coupled with the determination to contribute successfully towards fostering
safety in schools on the part of all stakeholders is mandatory to attain the goal of safety.
Lets all contribute towards creating a safe environment for the students. An environment,
which propels and inspires children to give their best - unhindered by any lurking apprehensions
and fears. Safety should be the motto of every school.
The children themselves could also
evolve mechanisms for conflict resolution
between teachers and students, and among
students. The teacher should ensure that there
are as few rules as possible, and that only rules
that can be reasonably followed are created. It
does no one any good to humiliate children for
breaking rules, particularly when there are good
reasons for the rule being broken.
Collected from Cenbosec