Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Counsel staff on child-abuse issues

I run a private pre-primary school with two others. We have 40 children in two batches. We have three male and three female employees, who travel with the children on the bus, help them at lunchtime and in the toilet. We want to guard against even the remotest possibility of child sexual abuse. Parents are worried about this too. Twice we have fired attendants who were watching porn on cellphones in their spare time (the 30-minute lunchtime), though they had not harmed a child. What should we tell employees about the handling of children? We do keep a strict eye on them, but would prefer to also treat them with respect and expect decent behaviour from them.

Yes, it is important to be aware as well as alert to this issue when you are in charge of young children. Your employees too are in a way your wards, and you would be doing the children, their parents, as well as these young (or older) people who work with the children in a non-teaching capacity, a great service if you sensitized them to the issue of child abuse. By treating them as your partners in ensuring the safety of the children, you will make them feel responsible and trusted, rather than merely watched. If you are comfortable talking with employees at the beginning of each school session (term) about these issues, you could do so yourself, or you could enlist the help of a counsellor or a school parent.

This should not be just a one-time talk, but an ongoing topic, touched upon in different contexts over the academic year with your employees. In one of your sessions, you could also encourage employees to revisit their own childhood and think of what they liked or did not like about how adults around them behaved with them—physically or emotionally. You may find that you are providing informal counselling and some outlet for those among them who have themselves been abused or brutalized in any way. Other topics you could touch upon are good and bad touch. This is an important topic to discuss with your employees, especially with those who help children use the toilet, change their underclothes, or help them get on and off the bus. It’s important that they feel the responsibility as well as the nobility of their tasks—enabling young children to learn, play, love and trust in the school setting.

Gouri Dange is the author of More ABCs Of Parenting and ABCs Of Parenting.

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