Social sciences, English Language and Math – are the commonly taught subjects in our so-called elite schools. Where children go through rigorous sessions of theoretical and sometimes practical understanding of a subject. It is absolutely mind boggling the amount of knowledge that is thrown at students in schools irrespective of their age and grade. A typical syllabus (of any subject) demands race and speed. Like a javelin throw, cutting through a known path but with an unknown destination. Similarly now, knowledge is zipping through the child’s mind, oblivious to the natural cognitive development and unaware of how much is absorbed by the already exhausted brain cells. Fair enough! Schools are after all meant to impart knowledge and make our children conscientious, hardworking and knowledgeable individuals.
Did you know that very recently the United Nations stated, “Child sex-abuse, a widespread problem in Pakistan is on the rise at an alarming rate.”? And the most vulnerable age is 6-15 years when a child can be subjected to this silent torment.
It is absolutely horrific the amount of neglect that is shown in such elite schools regarding awareness of this subject. Imparting knowledge and information on such a sensitive issue is no doubt challenging. Fair enough! But Schools are also meant to make our children socially queued in, responsible and aware individuals. Children have the right to be informed on how to respect and protect their body spaces and how to take action when relatives, acquaintances and domestic staff attack them upon. Perpetrators can only take advantage of this innocence until the ignorance of this extremely important and sensitive information continues unabated.
Parents at home and teachers at school play the most fundamental role in curbing this abuse and eventually handling it in such a manner that affects the child and community positively. Parents must inculcate open communication and trust with their children. For instance mothers can inform their children with a simple yet sensitive dialogue similar to this:
“No one is supposed to touch your chest, backside or the place between your legs, not even your doctor, if I am not present in the room”
“But what if someone does?” Asks the innocent“
Just throw a tantrum, darling, throw a fit, scream, howl…”
“But what if no one can hear me?” Asks the innocent again
“Try to run away, keep calling out for someone you trust”
“But who should I call out for?”
“Me, your teacher, your dad…”
“And darling, if someone does touch you in any of the secret places you will have to tell me, right?”
“Umm I don’t know, will you scold me?”
“Not at all, don’t be afraid to tell me anything”
The Q&A can continue with curious questions and even more perplexing answers, yet the most important message of trust, awareness and confidence has to be put across to the child. A reminder discussion every few months would always be helpful.
“Any touch or relationship between any child and older individual where there is an element of secrecy or solitude is suspicious and the children do feel uncomfortable, though they do not understand the complexity fully or do not know how to protect themselves from the advances. So they must be told to resist any such advance immediately and be able to say no” Says Dr. Naeem Zafar and renowned pediatrician in Lahore.
Did you know that “Eight schools run by the Village Shadabad Organisation in Johi Taluka are imparting education on the rights of the body? In these schools, teachers take out two hours every week to teach minor students about sex education.” Express Tribune
I applaud the schools in villages to take this important initiative. As one of the teachers proudly proclaims “Having your cheeks or any part of the body touched in harmful but minors don’t realize it. Our students can now understand if someone has bad intentions.” Wish I could say the same about my children and their schools.
Elite schools in the urban centers can provide similar information by calling in professionals such as doctors and psychologists, identifying the good and the bad touch. Conduct sessions for the parents, teachers and other school staff on how to inform the students, inculcate confidence in the child and identify the potential perpetrators. It is of utmost importance that our children are made aware of this heinous crime so that they can responsibly guard themselves and their innocence.
Oh and a firth is a narrow inlet of the sea, my son told me as he had learnt this in his geography class.