At present, about 73% of public schools in the country already organize face-to-face lessons. In the next school year, the Department of Education (DepEd) plans to implement 100% face-to-face lessons in public schools nationwide.
But is it really safe that children are already going back to school, not just from the point of view of the Covid-19 pandemic? Although every child has the right to go to school and learn, to receive a quality education and to develop their social skills, is the environment safe? What have government, education and school officials done to make schools a safe learning haven for children after a long hiatus due to the pandemic?
The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said that in the best of circumstances, schools put children on the path to a bright future, but for many girls and boys around the world, school is also the place where they experience violence, whether through bullying, harassment, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, corporal punishment and other forms of humiliation, which may come from a peer, teacher or even from a school authority.
On Friday, May 27, 2022, the Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA), a non-governmental organization specializing in the prevention and treatment of child sexual abuse, launched a campaign called “Making Safe Schools Happen,” an awareness initiative on how to make a child’s school environment a safer place to learn.
President of the CPTCSA Atty. Dario Aguila said that at the 2022 International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect Conference in Quebec City, Canada, one of the most important conclusions reached about the state of services for children is that there are still gaps in successfully involving children and young people. with and use the programs and services available in their communities.
“Here in the Philippines, we have found the same to be true in our work to provide all Filipino children with access to child protective services. This event hopes to start the process of connecting our children and of our communities with the programs and services made available to them and in doing so, address this critical need,” Aguila said at the launch.
School safety for children
ZENY Rosales, Executive Director of CPTCSA, believes that schools are ready because child protection policies and other DepEd mechanisms have already been in place for a very long time, and that is good news. “However, the DepEd still needs our support, which is why there is a campaign like this to help the DepEd address all child protection issues in all schools across the country. Their main job is to teach, but they also have to make sure the children are safe while they learn at school.
CPTCSA board member Dr Lois Engelbrecht said the aim of the campaign was to reach schools across the country rather than waiting for teachers to contact them. “Better child protection services have shown great results in Western countries, reducing the number of sexual abuses of children. We hope that others will join this endeavor and that collectively we can achieve our goal of making our schools and communities healthy places where children can grow, get support, learn, mature and become positive members of society.
Guns and mass shootings
REGARDING the recent mass shooting of elementary school children in Uvalde, Texas, USA, Engelbrecht cited a discussion she had with a Filipino child psychiatrist, and said that school shootings or school shootings mass probably won’t happen in the Philippines. “It will never happen because Filipinos have extensive and strong family ties. They [Filipino psychiatrist and his colleagues] I think since the American family is isolated, they don’t get the support, the sanity that they need from each other, and that’s one of the reasons why there are mass shootings .
She added that there are mass shootings in the United States because there are too many guns, unlike the Philippines where there are also guns, but there are many safeguards that make difficult the possession, purchase and possession of a firearm.
But then again, which is more dangerous, a child who is sexually abused or killed by a deranged weapon bearer? Rosales said that the CPTCSA sits on two government boards, the Child Welfare Council and the Juvenile Justice Welfare Council, and that the country’s child protection programs and mechanisms are evolving. . “In fact, the Philippines is leading in the development of laws relating to children. This is our strength, but implementation at the local level remains a problem. Laws have been written but lack sufficient support and funding to implement these laws.
On the other hand, Gina Lompero, CPTCSA Prevention Manager, pointed out that the Personal Safety Lessons (PSL) in the campaign are not only aimed at children, but also at other health systems. support surrounding the children. For PSL sessions, the child and parent attend together with the teacher. “That’s one of the features of the program. It is not specific but covers others that are part of the child’s life. The child is not alone in his environment, and the most important part of protecting a child are the adults or institutions surrounding the child.
As for encouraging others to join the child welfare advocacy, Engelbrecht said the CPTCSA has been doing it for 25 years, and schools want it but lack funds for training. . When there are funds, Engelbrecht said schools are happy to take care of it. “Some teachers still have apprehensions every time the word ‘sex’ is mentioned, but once they find out during training that it’s not about sex education but about personal boundaries and they see how simple the lessons are, they become more engaged. This helps build capacity and increase teachers’ understanding to do what they already want to do.”
Why is it necessary to teach personal safety to children? People love children, and many, especially parents, don’t want their children to be hurt in any way, especially not sexually. Too many children are hurt, but while adults have a responsibility to protect them, the data shows that adults are not doing their job well enough. Kids can’t wait for adults to be fully equipped. Personal safety courses in schools are therefore intended to give them the information and skills while also building their self-esteem so that they can participate in their own protection.
Image credits: Juan Moyano | Dreamstime.com