Safe Schools

Adopting effective safety measures

Author: Shanti Krishnamurthy

The parents assess the school on physical, emotional and social safety aspects before shortlisting it for the child.

Every successful organisation needs three faculties: yantra (resources), tantra (strategy) and mantra (vision).

Vision is the inspiring force that gives an organisation its very purpose and direction.

Every school should have a detailed vision manual with clearly mentioned focus areas including school safety and security under physical, social and emotional aspects.

Excessive focus on academics and success have left the students unprepared to deal with failures.”

Customising education has become important and our examination papers should test children on what they know and not on what they don’t.

How important is safety in residential schools?

The essence of every school is safety. Schools especially residential schools exist because of the safety measures adopted and implemented by them. Children spend almost 10 months in a boarding school and no parent would leave their child behind unless they are completely sure about their child’s wellbeing. The parents assess the school on physical, emotional and social safety aspects before shortlisting it for the child. School safety is not an added value addition to a school but is the vision of the organisation.

How important is a vision for a successful and safe school?

Every successful organisation needs three faculties: yantra (resources), tantra (strategy) and mantra (vision). Vision is the inspiring force that gives an organisation its very purpose and direction. It makes the output of a school very clear. Once the vision is made, a school sets up a budget and allocates the resources (yantra) optimally through effective strategies (tantra). Every school should have a detailed vision manual with clearly mentioned focus areas including school safety and security under physical, social and emotional aspects. Clarity in vision prevents a gap between the statement and its implementation.

What measures school needs to take care of while dealing with physical safety?

Physical safety deals with infrastructure and school design including taking care of electrical, chemical and fire hazards. Residential schools should have a preventive maintenance and repair team with anideal ratio of admin, electrician, plumbers and housekeeping staff. Health and Hygiene should also be a priority with facilities of safe drinking water, hygienic food preparation and a fully stocked infirmary and a trained medical team to handle all sorts of medical emergencies to be taken by schools. Schools should also take care of safety measures during adventure trips and educational tours when students venture outside the boundaries.

What do you mean by social and emotional safety measures? What do they entail?

Social and emotional safety primarily deals with a safe school environment and are closely related. Nowadays, increasing thethreat of child abuse with frequent incidents of bullying, cyberbullying, sexual abuse in schools is raising a red flag for the institution to safeguard their students. Schools need to start taking proactive measures to provide socio-emotional safety to their students. It includes setting up vacation norms, regulations for visitors and workers, safety education, gender sensitisation classes and remedial classes under proper supervision.

Emotional measures focus on building resilience in our students as we see mental and psychological disorders like depression, anxiety, bulimia, anorexia etc are on the rise. A common factor underlying all these is stress in schools. Excessive focus on academics and success have left the students unprepared to deal with failures. Thus, developing emotional competency involves equipping children with life skills, emphasis on nurturing goodness, increased participation in extracurricular and other hobby activities and creating a proper mentoring and counselling systems in schools. All schools instead of using the superficial approach of focusing on academics should begin at roots i.e. building the character of a child.

How has teaching-learning changed with the time? Can a safe school environment ensure optimal learning?

According to our scriptures, we had a mantra education i.e. not based on tutor knowledge but intuitive knowledge. Tuition includes what is taught and intuition is what is revealed to the person. The mantra education involved children meditating and contemplating and looking internally for the highest level of knowledge to be revealed. Now, we live on yantra education with excessive dependence on computer, calculators, textbooks and bookreaders. Combined with what is imparted by the teacher as an authority, the students have become excessively dependent on others to think for themselves. This has resulted in killing the children’s creativity and internalising of thoughts.

A safe classroom environment means where students control their learning, they question what is being taught in class, inquire and construct their own knowledge and there is no fear of failure and trying. Customising education has become important and our examination papers should test children on what they know and not on what they don’t to ensure their continued progress is the building block of a safe school environment.

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Can you share some of the best practises of your school to provide safe learning environment?

1) Our school makes customised examination paper for the children at primary grades. If a child is weak on a particular subject, we make an easier question paper so that he/she is not disheartened by low marks. Over the years, we have seen aremarkable improvement in our children with them catching up with the rest.

2) Every alternate day we have cultural talks in the assembly where we talk about our rich culture and heritage. We believe embracing one’s culture goes a long way in respecting the social norms and being a good human being.

3) We have forums where students are free to talk and question about what they study and the textbooks. Tevey subject is taught through inquiry and multiple textbooks to reduce bias by a particular viewpoint.

4) Holiday homework is typically based on values like sacrifice etc. where students have to present on how they practised the said value in their daily lives e.g. by sacrificing their television hours, volunteering for social service etc. We also give our students a list of textbooks, appropriate websites, novels and Hollywood movies to watch. This ensures that when they surf online, they do so responsibly and are exposed to the quality content.

About the Author

Miss.  Shanti Krishnamurthy

Shanti Krishnamurthy has over 35 years of teaching and administration experience in the ChinmayaVidyalaya, Jamshedpur (1981-2002), M.Ct.M Chidambaram Chettiyar Group of Schools, Chennai (2002-2006), and as founder-principal of the Mahindra World School, Chennai (2006-2009). In 2009, she took over as the Principal of Chinmaya Residential School in Coimbatore. She is a member of Central Chinmaya Mission Trust Educational Cell which governs and runs assessments for all the Chinmaya schools across the country. Due to her long tenure, she is also associated with CBSE and is a member of the affiliationcommittee and runs inspections and frame board papers for CBSE Board. She has received the “CBSE Mentor Principal Award” in 2014 from the then HR minister MsSmritiIrani and “ChinmayaGaurav Award” and the “Most Influential Principal” award from the White Swan group in 2016.

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