Ryan International school murder: How to teach children to protect themselves
It's not easy but we must prepare them.
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The brutal murder of an innocent boy at Ryan International School (Gurgaon) once again shows that schools have failed to prevent their campuses from becoming easy hunting ground for paedophiles.
The steep rise in the number of big schools, and students as well, means lesser individual attention at school. The unavoidable focus on the commercial aspects of running an institution only compounds the problem. Bigger school premises leave quite a few nooks and corners uncovered by electronic surveillance.
It is high time that parents accept that it is almost impossible - the way our schools are usually managed - to put in place a mechanism that ensures hundred per cent safety of our wards.
Hence, it is also time to accept the need for, and to take upon us, the task of teaching children how to react to a situation when they are approached by a predator. Such a matter is naturally alien to an innocent child. Their ability to either understand or escape such a situation is not inherent or inborn. It must be taught. It is necessary to prepare them.
As a thumb rule, children should be made aware that they must avoid strangers totally. No need to go into explicit details of the matter if it causes embarrassment or awkwardness.
In fact, it would greatly help make the exercise a fun activity just so the child is not intimidated by it. Call it an "action plan". This will excite them enough to pay rapt attention to it. Tell them that if a stranger, or even any known adult who is not a member of the immediate family, tries to sweet-talk them and get physically intimate, they must immediately initiate their "action plan".
The "action plan" is simple. In fact, that's a reason why people tend to undermine its utility. The children’s "action plan" is that they must, in such a situation, start screaming and shouting for help as loud as he can - continuously and ceaselessly - and run away from the spot. And they must run straight to where they can find other people present, for they will help.
If unfortunately, running away doesn't seem possible, they must continue to scream and shout endlessly. It is quite likely that their screaming will be heard and people will rush in to help him.
Image: Reuters photo
This could save the child’s life.
Therefore, do not dismiss this suggestion as overly simple or silly.
The following poem, “The Safety Song”, is a simple 10-line poem that can be taught as a fun activity to children. It encapsulates the above suggestions. As mentioned earlier, it appears deceptively simple. But do not be dismissive of it. Its simplicity makes it easier for children to understand and remember.
The real gist of the poem is in the four-line chorus. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and imagine you hearing this "action plan" (the chorus) for the first time, as a child. Does it impact you effectively? If yes, then rest assured that it will impact your child very effectively too.
It will teach them an extremely important life lesson. Ensure that it becomes a part of your children's psyche, their very thought process.
Remember, it could save their lives.
The poem is free to use non-commercially. Spread it far and wide. Share it with as many people as you can. God forbid it should ever have to be the reason for your child’s survival, or anyone else’s. But if it can save even someone else’s child, you will have done a great service to another parent and child.
Here is the poem:
A friend of mine, who has two daughters, as an extension of the safety measure above, strictly advised his kids to never accompany anybody, even if that person is an acquaintance. The elder daughter asked if this applies to even relative coming to school and saying that "daddy or mummy has sent him to bring them home as one or both of them have had an accident or some such thing".
My friend answered, "Barring X mama, or Y chacha (the two most trusted relatives), we will never send anyone else. So don't believe anybody else at all, no matter how friendly they are known to be."
This advice worked well for my friend. It will for others too. It takes care of another angle of the matter.
The most important thing is - we must teach our children to recognise and respond properly to such situations. We must.