With cases of sexual exploitation of girl children in residential school hostels coming to the fore from across the state from time to time, the state government issued fresh guidelines to ensure strict implementation of guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to ensure the safety of inmates.
As many as 1,670 schools and 4,700 hostels are being run by the scheduled tribes and scheduled caste development department. While 4.5 lakh children from ST and SC communities are enrolled in these schools, 60% of them are girls staying in school hostels.
“The department operates a number of Residential Schools where ST & SC boarders were provided free lodging and boarding facilities. While various initiatives are being taken at the policy level, there is a constant need to monitor the safety of these borders and students, especially in Residential Schools! Residential High schools, Sevsharms”, the ST and SC development department stated while issuing guidelines to District Collectors.
The department has issued various circulars from time to time for safety and security of students in Schools & Hostels. However, there have been increasing instance of sexual harassment and abused of the school and hostel mess in many Residential Schools in recent past leading to distress among the students and boarders, it maintained
To thwart cases of sexual abuse, the State government had decided to bring the government-run residential schools for tribal and scheduled caste children under CCTV surveillance to ensure the safety of inmates. Some of these schools have already come under CCTV coverage for the further strengthening of school hostels.
The Welfare Departments in all the 30 districts have been directed to ensure strict enforcement of safety and security measures in residential schools and girls’ hostels. The departmental officers have been asked to act vigilantly and proactively in the matter so that safety of children, mainly girls, are not jeopardized.
In these residential schools, children are provided free food and hostel facilities. The classroom teaching is also free of cost as per right to compulsory education act. The Odisha government bears the entire cost of running these residential schools.
On the contrary, the living conditions in school hostels are found to be inhospitable in the majority of the schools. Food quality served to the school inmates is alleged to be substandard. Medical care of inmates eludes the inmates.
Guidelines and SOP on safety and security of borders, safe cooking and serving, food menu charts along with code of conduct and duties of each staff were circulated to school authorities. But its implementation seems to have remained on paper only, said rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo.