Lucknow: The majority of the government schools in Uttar Pradesh have not instituted an anti-sexual harassment panel to deal with cases related to children, as mandated by the POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences) Act of 2012. This is in sharp contrast to private schools which abide by the rules.
Sarita Singh, gender equity consultant for basic education department, stated, "We run regular awareness programmes at schools and have nodal officers in every district as well as basic education officers, who go to schools to ensure that these campaigns are run regularly. There is supposed to be one dedicated teacher in each school to look after potential cases of sexual harassment."
Authorities maintain no cases of sexual harassment
On the other hand, the District officer for Lucknow, Vishwajeet Pandey denied receiving any reports of any such incidents in the 1,871 schools under its department.
"We hardly get to hear of any complaints from the school in-charges. During Covid, we got a complaint regarding a child marriage -- where the girl had run away from home because she was being forced into marriage. No case of sexual harassment has so far come to light," stated Pandey.
Notably, a circular sent out by the basic education department to all government schools in 2016 demanded every school to have a three-member management committee for the monitoring of possible sexual offences. This panel is supposed to be chaired by the head of the school and have at least one female member.
However, according to Sarita Singh, there has hardly been any follow-up to properly check the order's implementation.
While the basic education department runs awareness campaigns with teachers and students in schools, a system for redressal and registering of such complaints is lacking.
Lack of avenues to address the issue
Shuchita Chaturvedi, member of Uttar Pradesh State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said, "If a child wants to register an anonymous complaint with school authorities, how are they supposed to do that? There is nobody to address these complaints. The children are not aware of the course of action they should adopt to register a complaint."
Authorities maintain that such a redressal mechanism is in effect.
Vijay Kiran Anand, director general for School Education Uttar Pradesh, said, "We have a programme called gender equity programme and through that, we keep conducting awareness drives. Sensitisation of teachers and students through trainings and workshops happen regularly. There are committees at the district-level but not in schools. We have given instructions to school managements but compliance of the order can be adjudged when complaints surface. We have around 1.36 lakh schools. We are not certain as to how many schools have complied to order."
In a similar vein, Pandey added, "We have conducted street plays and discussions at the schools but we never received a sexual harassment complaint as such. Complaints and suggestion boxes are provided in some schools."
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