Advocating the Rights of Children (ARC) is gravely concerned that the commencement of the academic year has seen increased and extremely serious incidents of violence targeted against students, and in academic settings. ARC calls for prompt investigations into these attacks and for urgent steps to be taken to ensure safe and secure learning environments nationwide.
ARC emphasizes the pressing need for rethinking existing school security to focus on prevention of violence at schools, and preparedness to handle emergencies, should such a situation arise. Developing strict safety regulations and revising school policies should be accorded high priority, and students, teachers and parents should be aware of, and familiar with procedures to follow, in emergency situations. Steps that should be taken with immediate effect, include the establishment of necessary structural changes to entry points to limit access to only staff, students and their parents at school opening and closing hours, and a visitor’s registry to be maintained during school hours and for any extra curricular activities. It is important that all stakeholders and relevant authorities including law enforcement agencies work together, to design, develop and implement strategies to address school security, and bring an immediate stop to violence at schools.
Children’s very survival, ability to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential is strongly connected to their Right to Education. While the Constitution and the Convention on the Rights of the Child ensures every child’s Right to Education, this includes not only access to education, but also provision of a safe and enabling environment for them to learn. In addition to secure school premises, special attention should also be given to road safety at school locations, especially during rush hours.
ARC reiterates the call for urgency for the Child Protection Bill and Education Bill to be signed into law. Furthermore, equal commitment from the Government, Legislature, Judiciary and Civil Society, as well as the general public, media and private sector are needed to truly guarantee the rights of our children and to secure the prospects of future generations.