BY SANTA SYLVIA
Viva is actively promoting child protection training in schools in six cities across India. Teachers, counsellors and administrative staff learn how to recognise and respond to child abuse, and attain recognised standards.
Children are taught how to protect themselves by taking part in ‘Good Touch, Bad Touch’ workshops. Santa Sylvia (pictured below), Network Co-ordinator of Viva’s partner network in Bangalore – where 27 schools are being trained – told us about the deep-rooted issues being addressed.
I think the need for child protection is really high in our city. People here tell their children ‘don’t talk to strangers’ but often fail to realise that most abuse happens by people who know the child. We forget to teach our children how to be safe at home.
With the schoolchildren we train, it’s helpful when we say ‘good touch’ and ‘bad touch’ because it’s simpler and children understand it better than saying ‘appropriate’ and ‘inappropriate’. Towards the end of the training, many children said, “this is exactly what’s happening to me”.
Children experience neglect and abuse at schools – but staff don’t realise this because for them it is a part of discipline. Through our child protection training, we advise teachers that, if a child is not doing homework, instead of shouting at them and humiliating them in front of the class, talk to the child one-on-one and find out the reason.
Is it because the father is a drunk and beating up the mother? Or is there no electricity at home? Give the child a chance and you’ll get the real story. Build a relationship that enables the child to freely express themselves.
In some schools we’ve gone to, the teachers would be in denial at the beginning, saying ‘this doesn’t happen at my school!’ Because for them, abuse is only sexual abuse. Often during training, teachers realise their actions may have been the cause of emotional abuse or neglect. Some confess this and once they realise it they can start working on it. And that is what we want to see: a safe school, where children grow to their God-intended potential.
This article first appeared in Life magazine, issue 9