Safety at school is a top concern for children in India: ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’

Bangalore, February 10, 2017 – The international development group, ChildFund, released a global survey - ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ at a consultation on “Child-Friendly Accountability Methodology” here today. The event also saw the launch of “Child-Friendly Accountability” framework developed by ChildFund. This framework provides guidelines to help diverse stakeholders empower children to hold decision-makers accountable for ending violence against them. The event brought together leading voices from the government, the private sector, academia and NGOs, as well as children and youth, to discuss and share ways to collaborate.

The ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’  survey, that was released, captures children’s views on education and safety at school, in both developed and developing countries. The findings revealed that nearly one in three children in India have concerns about their safety at school. 

The voices of more than 6,000 children aged between 10-12 years in 41 countries are captured in the survey. The participating countries included India, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Zambia amongst others. The findings highlighted striking similarities and differences between children in different parts of the world. 

While children almost universally agree that education is important, a third of respondents in India (28%) said their school is only ‘sometimes’ safe (in line with the global finding of 31%) – citing deficient infrastructure and lack of toilets among their greatest concerns. Besides boundary walls, first aid facilities and toilets, children also spoke of corporal punishment and bullying, among their main concerns. 

In developing countries, 21% of children said being safe at school means school buildings and facilities which are clean, safe and in good repair – with this response being highest amongst children surveyed in India (58%), Ethiopia (55%) and Bangladesh (54%). 

Commentingon the results, Anne Lynam Goddard, President and CEO of ChildFundInternational, said, “The ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ surveyis a part of our constant endeavour to understand the issues which matter toyoung minds and also gauge the areas of improvement from variousauthorities.  The survey reveals that many children are concerned abouttheir personal safety at school which will prove to be an impediment in theiroverall development and growth. School should be an institution of constantlearning and development without children having to worry about safety at theirlearning premises. ChildFund is committed to doing all we can to providechildren around the world with a safe and quality education.” 

In India,children defined safety at school as having a clean and safe building (58%),having proper preventive security measures in place (46%) – ranging from ‘outof bound’ areas, to protection from strangers, to supervision by teachers;while 23% of children described feeling safe as not being the target ofphysical or emotional abuse or violence, with many children referring tocorporal punishment and ‘no bullying’. 

NeelamMakhijani, National Director of ChildFund India, said, “This survey tells us thatchildren in India are passionate about bringing in a more interactive approachto learning and subjects that would prepare them for real life, liketechnology. But it is alarming to know that safety in their institutions is agrey area. We can’t lose sight of the fact that every child has the right tolearn in a safe environment and a collective intervention is our moralresponsibility. We want to promote children’s participation in decision-makingand our Child-Friendly Accountability framework is a step in this direction.” 

According tothe survey, children also have many ideas about how they would improve theeducation system in their country if they were in charge. In case of childrenin developing countries, their first priority would be building and improvingschool infrastructure (56%), followed by providing students with uniforms,books and stationery, and well-equipped classrooms (31%). Children in India arealso interested in creating high quality learning environments, modernisingclass curriculums to widen the range of subjects available, and make learningmore interactive and fun by including sports and creative arts, and greaterstudent participation (28%). 

Interestingly,children in India were equally concerned as their peers in developing countriesabout providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25%).More than a quarter of children in developing countries would also improve thequality of teaching through better pay, more staff and required training (27%).

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