Creating a Safe Space in Schools
Safety and security are two basic prerequisites to ensure physical as well as psychological well being of any individual. And coming to the context of children and adolescents, these factors obviously assume a much greater significance, especially in light of their vulnerability during their growing years. However, it is important to note that such a safe and secure space is not restricted to the context of physical dangers but also encompasses the psychological, emotional and social factors which could be influencing the young minds.
Focusing on a Preventive Approach
Given the recent incidents surrounding misconduct in schools as well as adverse consequences associated with online social media challenges or games, it becomes important for us all to realize our role and responsibility as a stakeholder involved in the process. For instance, it is a tendency for us to typically get caught up in a blame game, as we attempt to identify who is responsible for such potential dangers. However, it is also important for us to reflect on the more important aspect of the situation, which is ensuring a prevention of such untoward incidents from recurring in the future.
Therefore, be it the role of the teachers and school authorities implementing preventive policies in their education systems, or parents ensuring more adaptive communication patterns and family dynamics at home, or the media taking precautionary measures when reporting such incidents, or even us as a community joining hands to work towards creating a more supportive environment for children and adolescents.
Creating a Safe and Secure Space in Schools
As the increasing number of unfortunate incidents in schools indicates, it is an absolute necessity today to ensure safety for the children in schools. Efforts need to be made towards the establishment of pathways to help the children and youth of today succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, as well as emotionally. The following are some of the points which could be kept in mind to help us as stakeholders in the form of teachers and school staff to help work towards preventing untoward happenings within the school premises:
1. Active listening is a must. Simply providing a listening ear to the child and encouraging an open communication channel within the school can go a long way to ensure an awareness of what is happening at the school. The teachers and school staff should encourage a system of open communication, so as to be accessible and available to the students, not necessarily to be able to provide a solution or to offer any advice, but also to be able to hear them out.
2. Implementing preventive policies in schools. It is important to encourage the stakeholders to promote school-wide policies and practices that ensure the safety of all students by reducing school violence, bullying, and harassment and help maintain positive school climates conducive to learning. Such initiatives could simply involve forming an anti bullying squad, for instance, to help in the identification and reporting of undesirable instances, and to help capitalizing on students by educating them as pro-social role models, thereby serving as an ally to aid the school authorities to deal with such concerns more effectively.
3. Promote a collaborative approach. Enhance the collaboration between educators, parents, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments to strengthen connections between home, school, and the community for all students. Such an approach is a mist to ensure that all the stakeholders are on the same page, and to establish an adequate communication as well as collaboration between them is vital in order to ensure a successful implementation of any preventive policy for the wellbeing of the school students.
4. Ensure adequate consequences and redressal systems. Ensure proper redressal systems are established, and that each student is aware of these systems, including how and whom to report to, and also an awareness of the possible penalties to be implemented. In fact, having such systems in place is important to ensure that the students are aware of the possible consequences associated with specific behaviours. Adopting a participative approach when developing such a system, involving the students themselves in setting these rules and regulations is also very helpful, as it tends to increase the students’ sense of commitment and responsibility towards the redressal systems itself.
5. Educate students about the channels of seeking help. It is extremely important to discuss sources of potential problems, their identification, their various courses of actions available, as well as the possible consequences with children. They need to be aware of the channels to seek help of a responsible adult, authority figure or the help of a professional mental health expert.