The Safe Place

Cheshta Tater (BLS LLB, GLC, Mumbai)

As a girl, I had to be cautious. I remember Mom asking me to hang around with a bunch of trusted guys to ensure I was ‘safe’. But what about boys' safety?

A guy friend of mine was recently given the tag ‘eye candy’ by his Psychology teacher and she went on to touch him ‘inappropriately’. And guess what, our school is deemed to be one of the top schools of the city!

Considering this, I’m super unsafe in school because I’m an adolescent girl and my school security guard is always asleep! Also, that bunch of trusted guys is now busy protecting itself. Who protects me now? An Eye Candy?

Let me be honest and tell you that I fear going to school now and more so for my younger siblings. As an eighteen year old, I do understand what’s right and what is wrong but what do the younger ones know about sexual abuse or foresee situations when someone can randomly pierce a knife through them! Yes, a knife! I know of a guy who was caught with a knife inside the school premises. I must say that my Grade 12 felt like a season of Game Of Thrones with weird things happening all around which didn’t let me sleep nights on end peacefully.

It was my school that taught me how to protect myself and gave me proper sex education. But now these institutions, which were meant to educate, have become houses of crime. They no long deserve to be called ‘second homes’ or ‘temples’. You might think I’m generalising but what’s the guarantee that the school you picture in your head is absolutely safe? And, by safety, I’m not only referring to the absence of sexual abuse, but many other aspects like absence of bullying and drug abuse, safe transportation system, good disaster management skills and equipment, efficient and sufficient security and more.

Recently, I experienced, first-hand and second-hand, all of the above. I was bullied in school, despite being in the senior-most batch; I’ve received hate messages so pathetic that I didn’t attend school for a month; Someone suggested I meet the school psychologist but then my friend told me what had happened with him (the Psychologist happens to be the Psychology teacher who had ‘touched’ him).

I’ve seen students take drugs inside the school without fear and no action being taken against them.
The guy with the knife had even, apparently, threatened someone with the said weapon because he had called him ‘gavar’!

I know of another leading school that suffered a severe fire casualty because of a short-circuit. That they didn’t have any non-electric alarm systems in place and despite the mandatory fire drills, it didn’t help and the ensuing panic made things worse.

And, I spoke of the sleeping watchman - a permanent feature in all schools, you could only imagine the risk to students.

This is the current situation of many schools as I’ve read in the papers and seen in the news. I recollect calling my teachers mum/dad by mistake when I was younger. But when I think of it now, I feel it was stupid: home is a lot more safer but this can never be compared to home and teachers are nothing like parents.

I hear of the most horrible things happening in schools these days. A chill runs up my spine when I think of myself in the victims’ place. I definitely won’t be able to understand what they’re going through, because to understand, I’ll have to be them. But I can only imagine something like that happening to me. Something terrible happening at a young age would surely scar for my entire life. A fear, nearly impossible to get rid of, would weigh heavy on my soul. It would mould my mind in a certain manner and change the way I perceive everything.

I always thought of schools as a symbol of civilisation, etiquette and knowledge but the past few years have forced me to change my view. Most schools, don’t view education as their primary objective and let’s not even begin to talk about their sense of responsibility for the well-being of students. I don’t think of it as safe anymore: the school or the route to the school. And today, I understand why girls always go to the washroom in pairs… it must ‘feel’ safer. When schools don’t appear all that harmless anymore, one can think what would it feel outside school. Some schools are decent enough to provide buses but can the drivers and conductors be trusted? Are they verified by the police? Is anyone in the school verified by the police? Are all police verified people trustworthy?

‘Beti bacchao, Beti padhao’ par, padhayen kahan? If an educational institution can’t guarantee my safety, I would rather not study. What’s the point of studying if it would kill me from the inside and, some day, on the outside? What is the sense in living in fear everyday?

There used to be a time when parents would blindly admit their children into hostels when they were being ‘bad’. They had enough faith in boarding schools to let their children stay there for months together. And now, parents aren’t able to sleep a night unless they see their kiddo all fine, back at home, right in front of their eyes!

law@draftcraft.in

(This article first appeared at The Woman Survivor - A DraftCraft Initiative)

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