THE school is considered a child’s safe haven for learning and interacting with other children and their teachers; but when a child is afraid to go to school, the purpose of a school comes into question.
One reason may be the school itself and the environment it provides for the school children. The school was cited by 80 percent of children and youth who reported incidents of abuse and violence in their lifetime, along with the community and their homes, according to the 2016 National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, the first-ever study of its kind conducted in the Philippines.
Zenaida Rosales, CPTCSA executive director: “We are putting together Making Safe Schools Happen but with the help of anyone and everyone who wants to help us as we continue working with children, students and child protection communities.”
Whether the abuse and violence occurred in the school, community and at home, the experience happened more with boys at 81.5 percent and girls, 78.4 percent, the study noted.
Back to the campus
AS schoolchildren will start going back to schools for face-to-face learning, school personnel, most especially the teachers, need to know how to identify and help the children who were sexually abused.
Take the case of Almira, 15 years old, who was left with her maternal aunt and uncle during the Covid-19 quarantine period because her parents were stranded in their workplace.
During this time, Almira was raped by her uncle when her aunt went out to buy essential items. Another case is Luis, 11 years old, and two of his friends. Luis met a sex offender online. He lured Luis by being friendly and helping him out with his homework. They eventually met up in a mall with two of Luis’s friends.
The offender then invited them to visit his home at a nearby province. The boys agreed, thinking it would just be a day trip, not knowing they would not be able to go home for two months. The boys were rescued by the police, but it was too late. They were already sexually abused during their two-month detention.
Due to the pandemic and the long period of online learning, nobody is truly aware of what the children went through in their respective homes.
Aside from this, we also need to equip the children with knowledge of how to be more assertive, resist abuse, and where to get help. Take the case of Irma, 14 years old, who was left by her mother with a pastor because he promised to send her to school.
The pastor molested her, and eventually raped her. Irma told the person she trusted the most, her mother, who, however, sided with the pastor and told her to apologize to him. Where do helpless children go from here?
Aside from adults taking advantage of children, the children themselves must be properly educated as well. Take the case of Jasmine, 12 years old, who got drunk at a party and was raped by Kian, 15 years old, and his friends. Apparently, such acts are a norm in their group. Since Jasmine was no longer a virgin and partied a lot, this horrific act is justified, in their group’s eyes.
THE Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Sexual Abuse (CPTCSA) said the Philippines has a long list of laws and policies that provide support and services to schoolchildren and young students, but there is a lack of implementation and enforcement of these measures.
Zenaida Rosales, executive director of CPTCSA, said, “The Philippines is one of the top countries with the best child protection and child-care measures, but we have yet to see these measures directly addressing children, their protection and development.”
The CPTCSA is launching the Making Safe Schools Happen campaign as visualized through a backpack with three important pockets—the largest pocket is filled with notebooks that represent several of the many laws about child protection; the next pocket has geometry implements that symbolize community-based services such as hospital-based child protection units (CPUs), barangay offices and faith-based institutions including the CPTCSA.
The most important pocket is filled with crayons and pencils that represent how students can access these laws and services that include needed information, teaching skills to put the information into practice, and building self-esteem to feel confident in accessing the services. These tools that are put into the hands of the students are the most important part of making safe schools happen, because if students cannot access help, then the helping system is moot.
Among the specific things inside the backpack is the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) notebook detailing Section 32 of RA 7610 providing that “all child-caring agencies and individuals must report suspected child abuse within 48 hours.”
In the Personal Safety Mandate notebook is Department of Education (DepEd) Order 45, Series of 2009, which the CPTCSA advocated for and predates the DepEd’s May 14, 2012, DO 40, s. 2012 Child Protection Policy.
DepEd Order 45, s2009, institutionalizes personal safety lessons in elementary and secondary schools nationwide to serve as guiding principles for children’s personal safety and protective behavior and enhance their social skills, self-esteem and vital knowledge of their rights.
Rosales said the first lessons on personal safety for schoolchildren were piloted in 1996 but this mandate came over 10 years later. “We hope to see these mandated lessons delivered to and understood by students so that they will know the protection measures by heart,” she said. “These policies are of no use if schoolchildren and the adults who are expected to protect and care for them are not educated about the provisions.”
The Personal Safety Lessons indicate concepts such as “touching rules” that teach students that it is never right for someone to touch their private body parts except for health reasons; how to get away and how to get help.
There is also “positive assertiveness” that shows ways to communicate that you don’t want something, such as “please go away” or “I don’t want that” or “I will tell my father,” as it is important for children to know that they’re entitled to their own choice of words but it must be done in an effective way.
CPTCSA executive director Rosales enjoined everyone, individuals and institutions alike, to help Making Safe Schools Happen be the instrument for an improved implementation of child-rights policies and laws.
“We are putting together Making Safe Schools Happen but with the help of anyone and everyone who wants to help us as we continue working with children, students and child protection communities.”
This report was made possible in collaboration with CPTCSA
Image credits: Nuthawut Somsuk | Dreamstime.com, Facebook.com/CPTCSA.org