As a mother, a part of my grief is the loss of innocence of my child, who suddenly came into the limelight as the four-year-old victim of sexual assault, by a classmate at her Dwarka school.
Innocence once lost can never be regained - those who have been victims of sexual abuse as children would agree that it is not easy to forgive and forget. In the fortnight since I reported her sexual assault, I have seen my child suffer on many levels: physical, emotional, psychological, social and even academic; the impact may compound her problems as she grows up, or so the child psychologist says, and I dread that thought.
The external wounds inflicted on her - in part with a sharpened pencil - have healed on the surface, but the scars that she has borne internally will stay on. I am glad she confided in me because if she hadn't, the abuse would have continued. She stood up for herself, by reporting her pain and then accounting it before the Metropolitan Magistrate what she had gone through. I stood up for her by complaining to the school and the police; an FIR has been filed.
The odds are stacked against me, but still, I dared to take up cudgels against the school authorities in whose custody I had left her. This child dared to open her pants in the toilet and injure her by putting his "dirty fingers and pencil inside". The teacher on duty that unfortunate day reached the zenith of irresponsibility by leaving the class in charge of the didi
for about 12 minutes; the school made it worse by not deploying another teacher as a substitute.
Today, they are going all out to defend themselves before the police, education department, all and sundry, by saying the school has not erred on its part. Why didn't it share the entire footage with the police in the first instance itself?
To go through something like this is shameful for a sensitive child like my four-year-old; after that, nobody from the school helped us as we reported the matter to the magistrate and the police.
How could a primary school teacher have failed in winning a child's confidence? My daughter did not tell her teacher (who was filling in for her class teacher) this.
What is more alarming is that if the school's claims are correct, as made by their lawyer that the teacher and ayah
were around and did not register what was going on. After the assault, the perpetrator and my child spent the rest of the day seated right next to each other in class.
The classroom and washroom both are not covered by CCTV cameras. Doesn't that alarm you? Does the safety audit only end with tightening the security at the entry and exit gates? Doesn't it extend to making these teachers and attendants in charge of supervising these toddlers more responsible in discharging their duty in taking care of young lives? What my child has gone through thanks to the callousness of school authorities is nothing but hell. My only saving grace is that she survived the heinous attack. But I have waged war against the school and its negligent ways so that no other child goes through the same experience, not anymore. Are these schools charging a bomb as fees just for nothing? Because if they can't ensure safety and security, the rest is meaningless.
The school needs to answer if it provides training and development for staff to protect children from any form of abuse, to look out for signs of it, to counsel children who are put through this sort of trauma.
Another pertinent question is whether the school has a committee to receive and investigate public/staff/parents/students grievances, as also a committee under the POSCO Act that is tasked with dealing with such sensitive cases. The details of these committees along with contact details aren't conspicuous on the school website for information of all stakeholders.
The police has charged the school with negligence. Is that enough for such a violent act against a four-year-old?
For my child, it the loss of certainty that everything will be as it was earlier. She has refused to go back to school and has been at home since then. I have sought admission in at least five other schools for her, only to be told that no other school is willing to give her academic refuge. Some say there is no vacancy, others say it's a management decision. Nobody is willing to go out of their way to accommodate a child on compassionate grounds. She is suffering for no fault of hers, and I know for sure that for her to heal, it is vital that she resumes her routine, the sooner, the better. The longer she stays at home, the harder it will be for her to forget the incident.
The incident is a wake-up call for all of us - children, parents, schools and their management bodies, and above all our society at large. Let's fix the gaps now to ensure that children are safe or else we will always be sorry.Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.