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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Teaching Safety

Teaching safety




   Most educators agree that learning can only take place when children have a sense of belonging and safety. If they don't feel safe they won't be able to trust anybody, even themselves. And this will reflect not only on their academic performance, but on their overall well-being as well. 
   Therefore, schools are now playing an active role in 'communicating' with their students and are conducting extensive workshops and counselling sessions to help them in every way, such as sensitising them on online safety. "Rhyme and rhythm always appeals, and thus songs and poems are of immense value for such learning processes," explains Asha Singh, a reader with the Department of Human Development and Childhood Studies, Lady Irwin College. 
   She adds: "Children are very open to learning rules if there is logic. When one explains to them that a policeman lets people go turn-by-turn so that people don't crash into each other, they understand why people agree to follow a given system. As a result, not only do the children learn road safety, they understand the concept of turn taking, sharing and so on." 
   Schools are also imparting lessons on self-defence. While Millennium School-Noida holds martial arts lessons, Gurukul Pre-School uses dramatisation and field trips to impart safety lessons. "We have classes on judo and karate and also conduct regular workshops on fire safety," informs Indu Vohra, incharge (primary), Hansraj School. 


According to psychological counsellor Sumitra Ramji, parents and teachers are often unable to handle sensitive situations, such as those with physical/sexual intonations. She elaborates: "Parents usually tag such incidents as a child's misinterpretation/imagination. This has a huge bearing on the child's self-esteem and sometimes makes them feel that the concerned adult does not care. As a result, the child refrains from sharing his/her concerns regarding safety or abuse. It is important thus, for parents and teachers to duly listen to any and every fear the child may communicate." 


"Early teaching about 'good' and 'bad' touch is very important, not only for girls but boys as well," says Ramji. Echoing similar sentiments, Priti Narain, founder-director, Gurukul Pre-School, adds: "We teach our students to stay away from strangers. They are taught to immediately inform their parents/teachers if anybody's pats, hugs or kisses makes them uncomfortable." 
   Elaborates Singh: "As far as possible, physical touch should be confined to family members and people you know. Touch and play is fine, but if you feel uncomfortable tell your mother. Even older kids have to be told not to be alone in a room with strangers." 
   On how children can be taught the concept of personal space, Singh advises, "Let children develop cues of expressions. If they feel the expression of the person is not appealing, they can surely run, scream and let trusted adults know." However, she cautions that it is just as necessary to ascertain that undue fear of people is not created in the process. 
   Says Suneeta Jain, principal, Maxfort School, Pitampura: "We teach such concepts right from the nursery-level. Even when students go for swimming or sports, they need to be careful and thus, we teach them to seek ours or their parents' guidance on any such issues." 


Children with special needs are, perhaps, most in need of lessons in fending for themselves. Rita Kaul, principal, Millenium School, Noida and also a special educator, explains: "Although we have special attendants for these students, it is important to teach them to take care of themselves. Therefore, we consciously train them in various life skills." 
   Adds Singh: "Drama exercises have been very useful in communicating with children with special needs on 'good and 'bad' touch. By means of drama exercises we illustrate how each and every individual has their personal space and that only a select few people should be allowed to break that distance." 


Students are also given lessons on how to avoid/behave with strangers when they are waiting for their school bus. Moreover, as a safety measure, most schools issue an identity card for parents that need to carry when they come to pick their child. Says Jain: "We hand over the child to the parents only when they have the requisite identity card issued by the school." Similarly, informs Narain: "Without the proper 'escort cards' parents/guardians/maids are not allowed to take the child home."


Sunil Sharma


Dil Se Desi Group


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