Thursday, September 14, 2017

Have We Let Our Children Down?

Photo courtesy - Google images

You don't realise how deeply you are capable of loving till you have your own child. As an adult who’s seen the world that can be kind and cruel, soft and harsh, cheerful and sinister, you want to shelter them from the worst and experience the best humanity has to offer. You want their childhood to be a cherished memory and not a nightmare.

So, when you read about a boy, all of 7, killed brutally for resisting sexual advances of a crazed man inside the safe confines of his school, your heart bleeds. You are filled with rage at the school for taking safety of your most precious so casually. You grieve for the parents who will be left with a gaping hole in their heart for the rest of their lives.

But the first thought that engulfs any parent is – what if it were my own child! I was living in Brisbane, and my daughter in Delhi when the Nirbhaya incident sent chills down our spine. It also brought out my worst fears. As much as I hated myself for doing it, I would ask her to be home by evening, carry a Swiss Knife with her at all times and my insides would turn into a gnawing jelly of anxiety, every time she wouldn’t pick up the phone.

Every time a child gets sexually assaulted or worse killed, we are overcome with helpless rage. It was appalling to find out that Ryan International has toilet facilities shared by students and the non-teaching staff including drivers and conductors. Children are easy targets for deviants. Also it's a known fact that paedophiles seek employment/engagement in organisations where they are in close proximity with children. It’s baffling that the school didn’t bother with background checks before hiring the non-teaching staff.

It is a colossal tragedy of our times that sexual abuse of children is not given the importance it deserves. It is either shrouded in complicit silence or the perpetrator is let off with a reprimand. The bus conductor who murdered Pradyuman allegedly had a history of sexual misdemeanours. Yet the school that dismissed him just a few months back didn’t think it was important to file a police complaint.

As a nation whose track record of safety for its citizens is far from exemplary, we still do not have a national database of sexual offenders. It’s not as if demands for one have not been raised before but our outrage that follows reports of sexual abuse in schools has the attention span of an amoeba.

The Delhi Police has chalked out a plan of action to look into the issue of security of children in schools following the Ryan incident. I am sure the Haryana government will also come up with their own list of rules and regulations for schools to follow. But simply drafting hurriedly made rules for children’s safety is not enough. If new laws and rules could keep us safe, no woman would be afraid to step out in the dark, no man would think twice before stopping to a take a bleeding accident victim to the hospital, no rapist will have the audacity to rape again and again.

Police background checks become just a useless piece paper when you know that the police chowki will simply sign the form without any physical verification for a mere 500 Rs. Regulations are of no use if the school lacks the sincerity to implement them.

One single lapse is all a predator needs to slip through the safety net.

So how do we keep our children safe?

We can’t possibly keep an eye on them all time. If we do, we will end up being that overbearing tree that prevents the small plants under its shade to reach their fullest potential. We can warn them to be wary of friendly uncles who offer toffees in parks. Stay away from suspicious looking adults. But then we will end up creating an adult deeply distrustful of the world.

Sadly, fears have an uncanny ability of becoming a looming shadow over our lives, blocking it off from sunshine and cheer.

There’s no disputing the fact that we all want our children to grow into adults capable of loving, caring and nurturing. So why not make them aware that your love is not dependant on the expectations they meet. Trust them so that they have the confidence to trust their instincts and be able to differentiate between good and creepy vibes from others. Talk to them rather than talking down to them. Instead of discouraging them from arguing with adults, reason with them.

A kid who obeys blindly will never be able to stand up for himself and fight back.

Also, let us accept that we are as responsible for our children as the school we send them to, the government we vote to power and the police force that is supposed to maintain law and order. Besides telling your child about the good and bad touch, insist the school has CCTV coverage, especially around secluded spots. A school cannot cut corners when it comes to safety of students.

Do not leave them alone with an adult. A majority of sexual abuse cases are perpetrated by people known to them. Teach them to say no if a physical contact makes them uncomfortable. Most predators are encouraged by the child’s puzzled silence.

Never forget to make them feel love and cherished. Take out time every day to just hear them talk about their day, their little joys and fears.

And enrol them for martial arts. Nobody will dare mess with a child who can defend himself with a firm kick in the groin of the attacker.

So while we are busy saving rivers, trees, our great culture, cows, morality, shouldn’t we also protect our kids from lust, rage, unreasonable expectations and abuse?

After all it is for them we are working towards a clean, breathable, liveable world where each morning in its pristine serenity makes us joyful to be alive.





28 comments:

  1. Heartfelt piece Purba. And it's not only about this school. We can't even begin to imagine the plight of not so famous government schools. I was equally shocked when the news about a Brit teacher who sodomised blind children was shoved under the carpet. Teacher student ratio, record check of staff, security and self defense, as you say need to be worked on.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. The ones who abuse bank upon the children's fear and inability to comprehend the severity of the crime.

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  2. It is sad but true that very soon the most heinous crime is religated to the background and things go on as before.

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    Replies
    1. It's our silence that encourages these monsters to prey on other children.

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  3. Purba, the attention span of an amoeba phrase is so true. Last time when something like this had happened, schools were directed to have a woman staffer in the school bus. It worked for a month or so, now everything is back to same. That is what disappoints me as neither parents, nor schools take security seriously.

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    Replies
    1. We forget and forgive too soon and assume our children will be safe.

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  4. I dont even know how to react to the news.. everytime i think of it, it send down shivers.. all of 7yrs old.. he would have just started to seeing the world and this happens..

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    1. No child, no parent should have to go through this.

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  5. I think as parents we must be more invested in checking out safety policies in our kids' school. It is sad when schools take such high fees but neglect the basics. While communication is really important, it is a challenge to educate kids who are very young. What can you tell children who are so young to safeguard them? I still struggle to explain rape to my younger son. And you can't possibly train little kids in self defense.

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    1. We can tell them that their bodies are sacred and no one is allowed to touch it without their consent.

      And children as young as four do enroll for karate and Taekwondo.

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  6. With little or no deterrence and slow pace of moving wheels of justice the scoundrels and scalawags have a field day! These sad incidents unfortunately keep making news at the expense of hapless victims and their kins!

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    Replies
    1. The media tends to act irresponsibly at times.

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  7. Purba, you couldn't have possibly said more. And you couldn't have possibly said it better. And you have said everything a parent would feel, want or fear. As for laws, actions, punishment and deterrence, what progress have we achieved after 'Nirbhaya'? There is something rotten in the state of Delhi.

    While in Mumbai, I was a PTA member at the school my daughters went to. There was an 'alleged' incident of a kindergarten girl child getting 'touched inappropriately' by a male teacher. The school administration called up an emergency meeting with the PTA members. What I found striking about the attitude of the School was not that the teachers, who were mostly ladies, were one in their support of the teacher, or the fact they were immensely worried about the reputation of the institution, but (1) the CCTV was not working, (2) the support of the parents (PTA members) was sought unconditionally, (3) there was an attempt to ridicule the child's incoherent explanation, or her mother's anger. Many thoughts crossed my mind that day, but one particularly haunted me for long. If, as the entire school staff was convinced, the teacher was innocent —he ended up serving a couple of years in jail and his life was ruined—, was it a lingering memory of a crime committed with her somewhere else?

    There is something that I want to say which I am sure you'd agree. An overwhelming portion of the padlock called police is rusty and corrupt, and available at a discount. I am afraid, the judiciary, has been failing us too. Some of the machinery entrusted with the safety of citizens is beyond reforms. Democracy is well past the date of expiry in India.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uma, this is exactly the crux of the problem. We do not think of our children of persons capable of hurt and emotions.

      It is beyond disgusting that the perpetrator gets sympathy and the abused gets branded as a troublemaker.

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  8. How I wish the policy makers read this post and work towards the safety of citizens first before everything else. We are putting our energies where it doesn't matter and ignoring things that matter. A good call out there, Purba.

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    Replies
    1. Our children are our priority and their well being and safety our responsibility.

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  9. This post address everything in this horrifying incident and makes me wonder with the callousness of the school. High time for authorities to come with a framework that demands accountability from schools. The worst is the lack of background checks and agree when you speak on danger of distrusting people that will create a climate of fear. Obeying blindly is the worst form of education.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Expecting them to obey without being told why is like euthanizing their brains.

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  10. Really scary stuff. I wonder how much do parents get involved in school management. I feel they should become almost equal participants.

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    Replies
    1. I though most schools had a select group of parents as part of management.

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  11. It was so sickening to read about the incident Purba. Couldn't imagine the state of the parents. What wrong did they do or the child do to meet such a horrible fate. One feels helpless that one can't protect their own child even in the confines of so called "safe places". It's time the schools followed an extremely stringent system of hiring with comprehensive background checks. And it's the onus of all of us to insist that they comply.

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  12. This whole incident is so sickening. Schools are more of money making institutions now and no longer places where a child will not only learn and grow but feel secure. And once money and ulterior motives take place of education and growth, such terrible things will happen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not as if educational institutions cannot make profits but when it as at cost of quality and safety, then it is a problem.

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  13. I am extraordinarily affected beside your writing talents, Thanks for this nice share.

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  14. I cannot even imagine the trauma that child went through and the trauma his parents will carry for the rest of their lives.
    You're quite right about martial arts. It's not just a sport; it's a mindset of discipline and self-confidence that all children (and adults) should inculcate. It truly gives you the tools you need to defend yourself, not matter your size!

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  15. It is a horrible horrible tragedy. I cannot forget the agony of child's mother. What could have gone so wrong that the boy had to be killed? Why did no one paid attention to killer when he walked out with blood stain in his clothing? How could some one bring a knife into the school and why? So many unanswered questions.

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