With cases of child rape by school employees coming to light, who all can we warn our children against? Many of our friends have started cautioning their children about literally every employee in the house, school or schoolbus. We just do not know how to caution our child without making her suspicious about, and frightened of, all adults in general. To add to our fears, some boys, around six years old, have reported that they are being accompanied to the toilet by some school female helpers, who make jokes about their genitals. How can we tackle all this?
With cases coming up every few months, parents feel fearful and vulnerable. And yet your reluctance to demonize everyone around your child is very understandable. Perhaps the “invisibility" surrounding school staff like cleaners, drivers, peons, helpers, etc., is one thing that you and the school can work on.
Have the children know their names, their work-designation, wish and greet them, so that they are not faceless, nameless “chaprasis", “ayahs" and “drivers". This is not only a more civilized and humane way to be, according dignity and position to the non-teaching staff, it also takes the anonymity out of the interaction. A potential child-molester/rapist may be deterred by the fact that the children are familiar with him, his name, and what he does.
Of course, in the light of all these cases being reported, it becomes doubly important for schools to check the backgrounds and bona fides of anyone that they employ. And that is not enough, all employees need to be sensitized, at separate and regular private talks with the school counsellor, on appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.
As for the female staff making remarks and unnecessarily accompanying children to the toilet, this is completely unacceptable, and parents need to have the school take cognizance. Some people tend to think of such remarks as “harmless fun"—it does not necessarily mean that they will touch the child inappropriately.
It is best to caution your child, introduce the idea of bad and good touch, so she can distinguish between who is simply helping her off the schoolbus, or helping her in the toilet, and who is touching her in an unacceptable way. This would be a better, more specific thing to do than create a generalized anxiety about how she needs to be careful of all these adults in her life.
Gouri Dange is the author of More ABCs Of Parenting and ABCs Of Parenting.