Teachers oppose govt. order; say having teachers of both sexes is healthy for students

Teachers and activists in the city have expressed their reservation over a recent decision of the school education department mandating the appointment of women teachers and headmistresses in government girls’ high and secondary schools.

The order, dated May 28, would apply only to all-girls high and secondary schools. It also requires the appointment of male teachers and headmasters in all-boys high and secondary schools. Co-education schools can continue to appoint male as well as female teachers for 2013-14.

A school education department official said this was being done to ensure safety of girl children against sexual abuse. “This is in addition to earlier efforts such as installing complaint boxes and warning of stringent action against offenders,” the official said. In May 2012, the school education department issued a G.O. stating, any teacher indulging in child sexual abuse would be punished with compulsory retirement, removal or instant dismissal.

However, teachers and activists are not convinced. A government teacher, who works in a co-education middle school, said the way ahead is to have more co-education schools with a mix of male and female teachers. “Instead of having a blanket rule, stringent action must be taken against offendersso that it acts as a deterrent,” she said, adding that it takes a lot of effort for girls to speak out about abuse.

A headmaster of a government school felt it was not right to generalise. “At a time when discussions are about inclusion of awareness about sexual abuse in the curriculum everywhere, this is a backward step. In the long run, questions of feasibility too will arise, when a vacant position has to be filled based on seniority but eligible candidates may lose out,” he said.

P. Krishnamoorthy, child rights activist, Tamil Nadu Child Rights Observatory, said the focus must be on gender parity and inclusiveness in schools. “Reporting of cases is comparatively high in Tamil Nadu. There must be a school counsellor and a student representative in school management committees. You have to take into account that younger children are as vulnerable to abuse,” he said.

When asked if the new rule would be applicable only in high and higher secondary classes, or for all the classes in high and higher secondary schools, the official said it would depend on the number of vacancies and candidates.

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