Geetha, an educationist and writer who works on issues pertaining to caste, gender, education, and civil rights, conducted a session on ‘Child Abuse’ at Mudaliarpet ERC on 10 November, 2018, in which 15 government school teachers participated.
Visakan, one of the teachers, introduced Geetha as a highly rational thinker who addresses varied subjects of social importance. It was also mentioned that she opposes hero worship and has a remarkable way of presenting her views.
During the discussion, Geetha highlighted various issues relating to child abuse and some of the social factors affecting the same. For instance, reality shows for children seem to place a great amount of pressure on them at an age when they are supposed to be learning and enjoying themselves. And, the choice of songs and their lyrics in such shows are beyond their age, which robs them off their innocence and the charm that is innate to their childhood. The participating teachers presented their views as well, discussing a few common problems they face in their classrooms. They raised concerns regarding ways to address some of the adolescent issues that their students struggle with and create awareness about child abuse in their classrooms.
Some Teachers’ Voices
Teacher 1: We have done away with the stick, but we continue to hurt the students while ignoring their voices or failing to make an impact in their lives. Many of them have issues which they are not able to present before us. We often silent them when their voices are to be heard and they are to be cared for. Have we addressed this?
Teacher 2: We need strong laws and protective measures. Suspension and transfer are the highest forms of punishment meted out to teachers. Just showing an awareness video or a circular from the department will not help. This should turn into a societal responsibility shouldered to address a significant societal problem. Even adults often do not possess a proper understanding of sex. Similar to how caste is still a problem in our society, sex education too is a great problem.
Teacher 3: I am very friendly with my students and spend a lot of time talking about things that matter to them. A boy and girl studying in the ninth grade were able to tell me that they had had sex on four occasions. A friend of mine working in the Primary Health Care Centre told me that it was common to see both boys and girls come and pick up condoms. Children have gone far ahead of us in these matters, and we are still only concerned about teaching our subject.
Geetha: Child abuse is something that has not even been recognised. Till what age does a child remain a child? In a popular children’s reality show with very high viewer ratings, have you seen the dresses they wear, the language they use, or the songs they sing? We have normalised all of this, and there is a crowd that admires the same. This is not normal. Have we voiced our opposition against this?
If teachers alone have to handle child abuse cases, it is difficult. We should tell teachers how and whom to approach in such cases. Geetha suggested the publication of a handbook for teachers and parents titled If Someone Breaks the Silence, which could serve as a guide to aid them on ways to handle such incidents, with inputs from legal experts and child psychologists. Further, she suggested the formation of a voluntary core teachers group to study and understand child abuse issues prevalent in government schools.
This discussion was concluded following a detailed discussion on ways to use the child helpline. Salai Selvam of Azim Premji Foundation thanked Geetha and the teachers for their participation in this enriching session, wherein they actively shared pertinent ideas and knowledge, making the session a very informative and useful one.