Every year the cases of rape of minors are on the rise and the unfortunate incidents happen mostly after school while children return home alone. Parents feel that bus facilities in the school would help curb such incidents and they feel that it is the parents’ responsibility to bring back their children home safely after school.
To highlight a few cases, the rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl in Paro in 2019, the rape of a 5-year-old girl in Dagana in 2019, and the rape of an 11-year-old girl in Samdrup Jongkhar resulting in pregnancy and birth of a baby boy in 2020, and the rape of an 8-year-old boy in Tsirang in March 2021 and feral dogs mauling a 7-year-old girl to death in Genekha in May 2021.
These all occurred mainly as the young students were returning home from school alone.
Chief counsellor of Career Education and Counselling Division, Reena Thapa said, most of the unfortunate incidences that happened to young kids are because they were returning home alone after school and also because of the inability of the parents to pick up their young kids off from school.
She said parents of classes PP to I, can wait for their kids on the school campus the entire day until their classes are over, but it is not the same case when the child reaches classes II, III, IV, and so on. Most parents are either bound by their other responsibilities or are complacent.
She said that age is the most vulnerable age. At least children who are in middle school are big enough and in a better position to understand the situation and know what is right and wrong and they have many friends as well and they can protect themselves. Whereas, children at the primary level are at a more vulnerable age.
She said if any incident happens outside schools, it is not the responsibility of the schools but parents in fact, should be more responsible. Currently, many parents are not taking responsibility. Now parents must be accountable and have better and bigger roles to play.
She said every school conducts parent teacher meetings to orient parents on the school’s timing and its rules and regulations. So they must be aware of the timing of when to drop and pick up their children.
Citing an example, most parents depend on schools to take care of the children even after school, whereby parents’ roles are shifted to the school.
Therefore, if anything happens to the students outside school, parents should be completely accountable for the incident and not the school.
She said schools have never left any students unattended and ensured the safety of the students even after school although it is the responsibility of the parents. Schools are doing a lot to take care of the students even out of the school campus, she added.
Apart from the many programs conducted by the school guidance counsellors on safety protocols, schools also have student welfare committees and students’ support committees to look after the safety of the students. Many parents are not cooperating or are not playing their roles, said Reena Thapa.
The School Guidance Counsellors conduct various preventive programs and one such is the parenting programs on child safety and protection. There are parents who attend and participate in such programs, but there are also many who do not despite inviting them so many times. “We understand there could be so many other obligations and responsibilities, but when it comes to their child, parents must prioritize,” she said.
The schools have safety measures in place and these measures will be effective and successful in protecting our children only if parents prioritize and play their parts equally.
One safety measure that parents can initiate in their village or community could be to form a group to take turns to escort their children to and from school. Some schools have also taken initiatives where senior students are made to take care of the younger ones to and from school which actually should have been done by the parents.
The school guidance counsellors in secondary schools have created a parent support group. To strengthen this group, it requires active participation and cooperation of the parents only then the safety of the young kids can be well-taken care of. But in this group too, not many parents participate, she said.
She reiterated that every parent must attend all school programs such as parenting education and teachers-parents’ meetings.
In the parenting education programs in the schools, the school guidance counsellors provide a lot of skills and education in not only helping their children but also to help themselves. Some of the topics of the parenting education program are generic however, different schools have different based on the needs of the school.