Chennai

Easing norms for NGOs in schools: Teachers and experts raise concerns

A recent circular issued by the Director of School Education which has eased norms for NGOs or volunteers wanting to improve learning outcomes in government schools, has raised some concerns among stakeholders. While child safety experts have stressed the need for safeguards to be put in place before volunteers are allowed to work with children, teachers’ associations have questioned about what will be taught and how.

The circular authorises heads of schools “to permit such NGOs/ volunteers after satisfying himself/ herself about the utility of such intervention in improving learning outcomes. Such interventions may include remedial teaching, deputing volunteers, counselling, sports activities, health check up etc.” Earlier, the NGOs had to wait for permission from the Chief Educational Officer or other authorities.

Safeguards

Andal Damodaran, president, Indian Council of Child Welfare, Tamil Nadu, said that schools had to be very careful about whom they allowed to work with children and put safeguards in place first.

“A background check must be done for every volunteer or even paid employee of the NGO. Schools should also have a set of rules for those working with children. No volunteer should be left alone with any child; there has to be someone supervising them. There should be a mechanism in place if a child wants to complain,” she said.

Vidya Reddy of Tulir Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse, said safeguards in schools should take into consideration the fact that every child is vulnerable to abuse. Ms. Reddy added that she had come across cases — both of volunteers who had abused children and of those whom children had disclosed abuse to, and who did not know how to handle this. She too, stressed the need for a code of conduct for behaviour and transparency, as well as vetting organisations and their staff.

What will be taught?

While teachers say that improving infrastructure is certainly welcome, they are concerned about what will be taught and what the qualifications of those who teach will be.

“There is already a specific syllabus in place which covers both academic and non-academic areas which has been vetted by the government. What about the content that the volunteers bring in?” asked Patric Raymond, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Graduate Teachers Federation, and said that this might result in organisations coming forward and addressing the children with propaganda that might be religious or unscientific to try and influence them.

The Draft National Education Policy (NEP) has mentioned making it easier for volunteers to participate in the schooling system, which Mr. Patrick said, they have already opposed. “There needs to be strict norms in place to decide which NGO can work and what sort of intervention it can do,” he said.

P.K. Ilamaran, State president, Tamil Nadu Teachers Association, expressed concern on the effectiveness of the volunteers. “The teachers of a school know their students best — their backgrounds and their learning levels. Organisations will not know the requirements of students or how the school functions,” he said.

A senior official from the School Education Department however said that the circular mainly aimed at simplifying the process for NGOs who are genuinely keen on working with schools. “Headmasters will be checking all the organisations and approving of them. If the head has doubts, they can involve the Chief Educational Officers too. Also, the activities of the NGOs will be routinely reviewed,” he said.

Following the circular, organisations which have had a tie-up with the department to help with infrastructural improvements and worked with classroom interventions such as appointing teachers to help with slow learners and to assist existing teachers, have expressed interest in reaching out to more schools, sources in the department said.


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Printable version | Nov 23, 2021 8:55:26 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/concern-over-allowing-ngos-to-work-with-schoolchildren/article29551383.ece

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