What do you do when one of the safest and fun places turns out to be a space filled with horror and nightmare? What can be done when trusted people turned out to be the monsters from the scariest movies?
A school is supposed to be a safe environment where children will learn, play, and have fun. On the other hand, teachers, staff, and schoolmates are supposed to be their friends, nurturers, and support the children through their learning process.
However, at times these friends, nurturers, and supporters turn into monsters by abusing the children sexually, emotionally, or physically. Any kind of abuse to children is traumatizing and has life-long consequences.
According to the Center and Global Development, 19 to 47 countries globally do not have a code of conduct for teachers that will ban sexual abuse or harassment of students. Lack of rules and regulations allows these people to get away after committing such heinous acts and breaks children's trust in adults and law enforcement.
Bangladesh's situation is also similar, and only very few schools maintain appropriate child protection policies. International School Dhaka (ISD) is one of those schools that follow a strict child protection policy and provides training to all teachers and staff.
ISD conducts the 'Steward of Children' programme, and it is mandatory for all teachers and staff, including gardeners, canteen staff, guards, and technicians.
Steward of Children is a globally recognised child sexual abuse protection training that has been created by 'Darkness to Light.' It is a two-hour training that will teach people ways to prevent, recognise, and react responsibly to child abuse.
It incorporates narrations from sexual abuse survivors, experts in the field, and other concerned adults – all of them provide practical guidance to prevent and respond to child abuse. The programme increases the knowledge about sexual abuse, improves attitudes about preventing child sexual abuse, changes child protective behaviours over the long-term, and improves child care codes, policies, and procedures.
The programme also consists of a 5-step framework that will protect children and prevent abuse. At first, it is vital to learn the facts to enhance the knowledge about the situation and help people tackle it accordingly.
It is then necessary to create a safe environment to reduce the risk of abuse. People also need to talk openly about the issue as it will break down barriers and lower the stigmas around it.
One of the most important steps is to recognise the signs as it varies from person to person. Finally, learning ways to react appropriately to suspicion, disclosure, and discovery of abuse.
We should remember that child abuse is preventable and must not be tolerated, no matter where it occurs. Every child worldwide, including Bangladesh, deserves to grow and learn in a safe environment, without fear of getting abused.
It is commendable how some schools are taking initiatives to prevent abuse and protect children. All educational institutions should take initiatives similar to it and create a safe environment for all young souls.
Shaharia Sultana Ria is Head of Human Resources at International School Dhaka