Government of India, India, Stories, Women
 

Review: A parliamentary standing committee on ‘Empowerment of Women’ calls for improved safety measures at schools

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The parliamentary standing committee on ‘Empowerment of Women’ looked at the issue of the working condition of women teachers in the country. At an All India level, more than 52% of the teachers are female. Among other things, the committee has called for improved safety & security measures at schools. 

Teaching is one among the very few professions that is dominated by women. Keeping in view the importance of female teachers in schools, the parliamentary standing committee on Empowerment of Women submitted an exhaustive report entitled ‘Working conditions of women teachers in schools’ in February 2019. The study undertaken by the committee included various aspects ranging from recruitment and salary to transfer, safety and security issues, sexual harassment, and grievance redressal. A total of thirteen recommendations were put forth by the committee. 

The 13 recommendations have been divided into five broad categories for the purpose of this two-part series. The five broad categories are;

  1. Education for all and Women teachers
  2. Safety, Security, and Grievance Redressal
  3. Workload and availability of toilets
  4. Transfer, posting, recruitment, and representation
  5. Leaves, ad-hoc and contractual teachers’ plight, and pay parity. 

In March 2020, a report on the action taken by the government following the committee’s recommendations was submitted in the Parliament. The government had accepted ten of the recommendations and furnished an interim report on one. The committee did not accept the government’s response on two of the recommendations and re-iterated those recommendations. 

In this story, the first two categories- Education for all and women teachers, and Safety, Security, and Grievance Redressal, have been discussed. The remaining will be discussed in a subsequent story. 

Education for all needs to be ensured

School education and teachers play a crucial role in development of individuals. It is well-known that education is fundamental for a country’s growth and development. The committee pointed out that to have a knowledge-based society and law-abiding citizens, education for all is absolutely necessary for India. The committee thus recommended the strengthening of education sector by further investing in primary and secondary school infrastructure to ensure affordable and quality education for all. 

Even though the Constitution guarantees free and compulsory education to all children between six to fourteen years of age, there are still many who are deprived of it. More than 97% of the habitations in the country have a primary school within a radius of 1km and more than 96% of the habitations have an upper primary school within 3 km radius as per data of 2018-19.  This number varies across states. Basic facilities such as all-weather roads, water supply, toilets, and classrooms are also found lacking in government schools in comparison with private, aided, and unaided schools, according to some studies.  

The MHRD in its response to the committee has stated that a ‘New Education Policy’ is underway which also focusses on making education inclusive for all by ‘bridging the social and gender gaps’. It further states that under Samagra Siksha, the government is implementing various schemes for universalization of primary and secondary education. In its response, the government also stated that the Delhi Directorate of Education has been following a comprehensive strategy for the upgradation of infrastructure in the government schools such as construction of additional classrooms, toilets, CCTV camera installation, etc. The New Delhi Municipal Council has even started Joyful Libraries and Digital Libraries and introduced Bio-metric Attendance System for teachers, as per the action taken report submitted by the government.

More women teachers are needed to encourage girls to enrol in schools

Not only are students equipped with knowledge and skills, but their personality is also shaped in schools. Teachers are considered role models for students and hence, their well-being influences the quality of education that students receive. Furthermore, Women teachers are required in schools for encouraging parents to send their girl child to school. Their retention, performance and personality development are also influenced by the women teachers. Thus, the committee recommended that increasing women representation in teaching should be done through policy initiatives. For instance, teachers for smaller classes and girls only schools can be wholly handled by women teachers, or even by modifying posting such that more women pursue teaching. 

Opportunities for female teachers need to be created

The standing committee report in 2019 observed that women representation among teachers is varied. The Kendriya Vidyalaya Schools workforce constituted 44% women teachers while in Navodaya schools, the same percentage was only 25%. Meanwhile, schools under South Delhi and New Delhi Municipal Corporations, the percentage of women teachers was 68% and 70% respectively. MHRD stated that at an All India Level, Government Schools’ workforce had 52.22% women teachers and towards the end of 2018, KVs had close to 50% women teachers. In order to encourage more women to take up teaching, it is necessary that the safety and security of the women is ensured in the schools. Furthermore, basic amenities such as separate toilets need to be provided. 

Regular skill development and training programs are required to keep teachers up to date

National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) was constituted by the Indian Government to impart skill development training to teachers. MHRD too has conducted programs through in service and distance learning modes. However, the committee has asked all institutions to focus on inculcating desirable qualities required for a teacher including emotional intelligence and positive attitude, gender sensitive issues like crimes against women, laws, POCSO Act, educating young girls about menstruation and menstrual hygiene. The committee has emphasized that the training programs should help foster moral values by teachers to avert student violence. NCERT, SCERT Delhi, and other municipal councils in Delhi stated that they conduct workshops and training programs for the same. 

Schools continue to follow outdated Vishaka Guidelines to deal with sexual harassment cases 

Except for a few government schools in Delhi, the committee observed that schools continued to follow Vishaka Guidelines that are outdated. The committee had also noted in its 2019 report that the disposal of harassment complaints was slow. The guidelines have now been superseded by Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Not only should this law be implemented, but the same needs to be communicated to all teachers and staff. It was also stated that  District Education Officers (DEOs) must organize special grievance redressal sessions for school teachers at regular intervals which shall be monitored by concerned ministry through periodic reports. The committee has called for the constitution of setting up of Grievance Redressal Mechanism for women teachers and students in the education sector by constituting Grievance Redressal Committee and the ‘Internal Complaint Committee’ at the earliest. 

As a response, the MHRD listed out the rules pertaining to this under RTE Act, 2009. Different Municipal councils in Delhi listed out the measures taken by them such as installation of complaint boxes, setting up of Internal Complaint Committee, etc. However, the responses have not been accepted by the committee and reiterated that all the schools should have such committees. 

Safety and security for Women teachers needs to be ensured

Women teacher raised several security concerns at their workplace. Lack of security guards at government school premises was one such concern. Another security concern was when they were summoned for election commission duties and census. The committee recommended that self defence programs be imparted to female teachers and students, which is being implemented under Samagra Siksha. Efforts taken by CBSE have been appreciated by the committee. The CBSE has issued a circular to their schools to take measures like psychometric evaluation of staff, safety audit of premises, CCTV monitoring, and character antecedents verification of security guards and visitor management. Meanwhile, most government schools do not even have a security guard. Lastly,  the committee recommended that measures be taken to allay the fear in the minds of the female teachers while they are on electoral or census duties. 

Featured Image: Empowerment of Women

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