CHENNAI: While child sex abuse is a taboo topic for some parents and schools, Chennai Corporation is breaking the silence over this distressing issue.
Display boards written in Tamil with illustrations to create awareness about child sexual abuse among children have been put up at all 284 schools run by Chennai Corporation schools.
Soon, teachers will be trained to talk to students about sexual abuse in classrooms. The initiative being implemented jointly by Tulir - Centre for Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse and Friends of India was inaugurated on Monday at the Corporation Higher Secondary School in Kolathur by Mayor Saidai S Duraisamy. "Corporation schools have been engaged with child welfare organisations for almost eight years now. But with increasing reports of child abuse in Bangalore and other cities we decided to expand the awareness programme," said an education official of the corporation.
The pictorial boards, one for each school helps children identify their private parts, distinguish between good and bad touch and tells children how they should react if they are being abused. It tells children to scream loudly, firmly say no or leave the place, tell their parents or other trusted adults about the incident. Most importantly it teaches them that when such an incident occurs it is never their fault. "The boards are age appropriate with different set of pictures and explanations for children in kindergarten up to Class 3 and for students from Class 4 to 12," the corporation official said.
"Children spend most of their time in schools so their safety is priority and their welfare is important at all times," said a statement from the civic body. "This awareness programme is not only for schools but also for parents so they can establish a safe and supportive environment."
Child rights activists have lauded the civic body's efforts but say more work needs to be done on this issue. "A counseling team who can handle a couple of schools must be established. Children need a grievance system, they may not be comfortable sharing with their teachers who are seen as authoritative," says K Shanmugavelayudam, convener, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory. "Awareness on sexual abuse must be made part of teacher training and the school management committee should also include parents in this programme."