What lies beneath a High School student’s mask?


Shishuvan counsellor Veena Hari recently worked with High School students on the construct of self-awareness and reflecting on the different aspects of self in personal vs. social situations.

The session began with students viewing a short film titled “Identity

 Identity is an award-winning short film by KJ Adams. The short film criticizes the dominant cultural norms of identity and the self, and beautifully stylized, suggests we be ourselves instead of try to conform to those norms.

Using masks, the film portrays the different selfs we all present to different people. In one of the scenes, a girl approaches a group and takes off a mask to reveal another – this is a great observation of the fact that people have multiple “selves”, and show different parts of their selves depending on who or which group of people they are with.

The main character, the girl, already wears a special, Venetian styled, mask, and eventually takes it off because it breaks, causing quite a stir.

 After viewing the film, a short discussion was held and the following questions/points were raised. 

  • What was the film about?

  • Do we all wear different masks depending on our situation?

  • What are the various comments made on society in this film?

  • Do you often find yourself also wearing a mask? Give an example

After the discussion, the class did an “Inside/Outside Mask Activity”

We often do not realize that they put on masks when interacting with others. There are thousands of masks we wear, sometimes all within one day. This activity is designed to help us begin to become aware of these masks so that we can choose what masks to wear.’

The students were given a sheet of paper and they had to draw a mask on both the sides of the paper, one for “Inside” and the other for “Outside”. They used drawings or words to depict who they are and how they feel from the inside i.e. to the general public, their social self and on the other side they depicted who they are from the inside i.e. at home or when they are by themselves and no one is watching.

 The two selfs/masks can be similar or can be completely different depending on their view of themselves.

Before the session began, the students were asked about how their mid-term break was and most responded by saying that they were not as enjoyable as they were stressed out about the impending Terminal exams. In Shraddha class, the students were upbeat about the break and the majority reported that they thoroughly enjoyed it. The general mood in the classes was a sombre due to the upcoming exams. The activities were carried out in all the three divisions as planned. The students watched the film with complete attention.

In the discussion that followed the film, the students showed good understanding of the film and the references made in the film. They interpreted that some people wear masks so that they are accepted by others. There were a few good comments made in the discussion. One student in Karma class shared that people who wear masks are ‘fake’ people. Some others in the class disagreed and she elaborated with an example that some friends pretend to be the partying type just so that others see them as cool whereas in real life they were not the partying types. In Dhyaan class, as soon as the movie was over, one student shared the message of the film and appreciated the movie as well. In Shraddha class, Harshvardhan was excited to share what he thought of the movie whereas there were some who were not sure about what they saw before the discussion. Some expressed that one cannot be true to oneself at all times as sometimes we need to pretend to like something so as to not hurt other’s feelings. This was especially so in the case of relatives.

In the second activity, most students were engaged while one or two in each class were hesitant and unsure. One student asked if he could leave his make blank on both sides as he is confused about himself and his own behaviour. He was encouraged to reflect. Another girl in Dhyaan class was unsure till the end about what she could do in the activity. Apart from this some interesting responses and art work emerged from the activity.

Outside me: I talk a lot and a fun person.

Inside me: I care about everything bust would show an “I Don’t Care attitude’

Krupa from Karma lass added a rule of her life on the mask: “Be who you are. Life goes easier.” She also mention that she is “Normal” on the outside whereas she is “soft as cotton and gets hurt easily” on the inside.

Another student reflected that on the outside I love talking and like having company all the time whereas on the inside I like being left alone at times and talk to myself

Ansh Lapasiya fromKarma class drew expressing that he s funny in the outside world and serious in the inside world.

One student wrote that he is “quiet with relatives and keeps all secrets to myself in the house whereas very talkative with friends and shares everything with best friend.”

Another depicted through drawing that on the outside, the mouth is highlighted with shading and on the inside the brain is highlighted indicating that he talks a lot outside but thinks a lot inside.


Conclusion: Outside ≠ Inside”

Whereas another just wrote *The same as I am Outside* and *The same as I am Inside.*

Another depicted outside “bad at singing” and inside “Good at singing” and ended with a question: “People judge. When do they plan to love?”

IMG_3618 IMG_3625 IMG_3624 IMG_3622 IMG_3623 IMG_3621 IMG_3620 IMG_3619 IMG_3626

Standard V looks at their inner, musical self

For their music project this first term, the students of Standard V were asked to design a creative poster on the topic – “If I were a musical instrument, I would be a/an _____.”

Here are pictures of some of the best projects submitted by the students. The music teacher Maxim, had a tough time selecting the projects and enlisted the help of his colleagues to decide which projects would finally make it on the display board.

Final decision taken – We need a bigger display board!!!



Loving your students

- by Chintan Girish Modi



The author conducts workshops focused on creative writing and education for peace. He is the founder of People in Education and Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein. He can be reached atchintan.backups@gmail.com

This article was written for Teacher Plus magazine, and was published in their September 2014 issue. It has been reproduced here with the author’s consent.


My most difficult moments as a school teacher were those where I had to put rules before my own good sense. I am not alone in this, I have come to realize. Several teachers experience this predicament. It can be difficult for teachers to put their foot down in the face of institutional pressures. And this can bring not only agony but also an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

I recall a conversation with a teacher who shared, “I know this child in my class hates physics. Why are we forcing it on him? I’ve been speaking to my department head but she does not listen to me. Solving more worksheets every week isn’t going to make him start liking it. Why don’t we let him focus on the subjects he loves? It’s okay if he just passes in physics.”

In these words, I hear a dogged commitment to the child’s well-being. I also hear a plea for the teacher to feel recognized as someone who knows her children, their likes and dislikes, their talents and capabilities. In the managerial culture that is beginning to take over our schools, it is the teacher’s voice that often seems to be heard last, after everyone else has spoken – the director, principal, department head, subject head, consultant, counsellor, curriculum developer, and god-alone-knows-who-else. Sometimes, it’s not heard at all.

Another teacher expressed utter dismay at his school’s policy of getting students to come for revision classes during the examination week. “What’s the point of making them stay back in school for two hours after they have answered a three-hour paper? When I was a student, I used just go home and sleep, or play with my friends, or watch television. Gosh! Give them a break! Let them breathe, for heaven’s sake! If I had a choice, I would just go ring the bell right now,” he said.

It can be painful to sit and watch your students dying to go home. The school’s policy clearly appears to originate from a line of reasoning that is not student-centric. How many schools in India allow teachers a safe space to question such policies and advocate in favour of the student? With more and more schools, especially in cities, being run like corporations, teachers are expected to be cogs in the well-oiled machinery of teaching hours, staff meetings, lesson plans, assessment rubrics, professional development, and never-ending paperwork.

When those who demand education reform identify the teacher as the one-point focus of what needs to be reformed, the scenario is frankly worrying. I wish we’d look deeply into what dehumanizes teachers and learn more about how to support them, instead of creating mechanisms to ‘professionalize’ the teacher-student relationship to such an extent where it becomes no different from a supervisor-employee relationship which revolves around submissions, deadlines, targets and objectives all determined by folks at the top.

This business-like work culture threatens to destroy a lot of what we cherish about the teacher-student relationship. It would be tragic to create school systems that do not allow teachers to love their students, and that compromise on the qualities of care, affection, and understanding we associate with our favourite teachers in school from the time we were children.

The heart, I feel, is extremely important in the teacher-student relationship. I am reassured of this as I read Daisaku Ikeda’s To The Youthful Pioneers of Soka: Lectures, Essays and Poems on Value-Creating Education. He writes about Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, a teacher and philosopher of education, who was imprisoned during World War II and died in prison.

Ikeda writes, “In the cold northern island of Hokkaido, where Mr Makiguchi lived before he moved to Tokyo in 1900, he would wash students’ chapped hands with warm water in winter to ease the pain. When snow storms raged outside, he would carry young students home on his back.” He adds, “For students who were too poor to bring packed lunches from home, Mr Makiguchi raised funds to provide meals and snacks. He would place the food in the caretaker’s room for the children to collect so they wouldn’t have to suffer unnecessary attention or humiliation.”

Shishuvan hosts Volleyball Tournament and Lifts the cup!

By Tejas Kapasi.


Tejas Kapasi runs a Travel Agency and has been in the travel & leisure industry for the last 15 years. He has travelled to more than 72 countries, and enjoys driving and discovering new places. Tejas enjoys writing for Trade magazines and has also been a faculty lecturer for academies in the travel Industry.He has been an enthusiastic volunteer on Shishuvan field trips to to Chennai and the Konkan. He has 2 sons studying in Shishuvan.



Shishuvan recently hosted the AIMS Inter School Volleyball Tournament (Regional level). The under 19 and Under 16 boys and girls teams of schools affiliated to ICSE / ISC from across Maharashtra participated in the event.

Scheduled on September 12, 13, & 14, all the matches were held at Shishuvan’s state of the art Sports Pavilion.

I and Nikunj Lakhani were two parent volunteers, who were at the Pavilion on all three days.

Shishuvan had thoughtfully provided all participating schools a small route map to help them reach the venue.

The 1st day was flagged off by our Executive Director Ms Neha Chheda, and the tournament  started with the under 19 Boys. Even the intermittent rain didn’t dampen spritis. 

Our Sports teacher Nilesh Sir had a great deal of responsibility on his shoulders. On day 1, 2 schools could not reach the venue at the right time and it seemed they were not able to locate the venue. From dealing with problems like this to assisting school in charge / coaches with their queries, Nilesh was the person everyone headed too.

More than 20 teams of 12 students each participated and each team came with 2 coaches which meant Shishuvan was responsible for the comfort and care of 300 plus people.

To assist Nilesh Sir and with the help of Bhavna Shah, we made a list of  all the school’s in charge / coaches and informed them that they could contact the parent volunteers for help and assistance.

On day 2 the reporting time was 7:45 am and the calls started by 7:35 am asking for directions to the venue.

More than 6 buses had to be re routed and escorted from places like VJTI College, King’s circle and Ruia college junction.

Lalit Sir, Ashwini Mam, took charge of the registration desk and we all felt pelased with  the way things started.

Then entire support team supported eachother and multi tasked to get various jobs done. It wouldn’t have been possible to have arrange something on this scale without such robust team work. Thanks to Vinod, Vikram, Vishnu, Sandeep, and all other support team members (many of whose names I don’t remember, so sorry) for their help.

Bhavna Mam, from the Finance and Bursar department also  provided her timely assistance and her prompt thinking helped us in many ways

 Principal Shubadra Shenoy did the honours of starting the day 2 proceedings.

Two twinkling and buzzing stars of 7th Std Ayushi Savla, Neha Lad and Soumya did an amazing job giving live scores, schedules, announcements of maintaining decorum and discipline and welcoming guests. Kudos to all of you!

The entire Volunteer team of std. VII boys and girls were on their feet always and were everywhere when required. Great job Ronak, Harshal, Sara, Jay, Pranay and Soumya. The arts team was busy preparing certificates.

The last day matches for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place were played with utmost spirit by all teams.The invited guests, chief guests, prize distribution, final matches, all went well on the last day.

This was the 1st time Shishuvan had hosted a sports tournament at the regional level with so many teams. But it felt like this was something we had done many times before. The entire event went off so smoothly.

Some of the coaches from other schools conveyed their appreciation for the arrangements  to Nilesh Sir and Dhiraj Sir.

I  heard from many coaches of other school as well as some parents of children from other school on site saying the event was very well managed and organized

One of them even suggested that we host next year’s event too!

Last but not the least the under 16 boys and girls team of Shishuvan, played the game in the right spirit with great enthusiasm and sportsmanship. Dhiraj Sir’s coaching was evident the way the teams played  and his timely briefing of techniques and strategy could be seen on all days

If the boys’ match was the main course as they finished 3rd place, dessert was the girls’ finals match. Winning on home turf that too in the final set when the score is point all and you need 2 points to lift the cup or opponents lift it. Girls really composed themselves and proved it right that they are champion’s team.

Kudos to one and all in Shishuvan for making this a grand success

15265473665_6326fe44af_z 15242466876_ee47756052_z 15078908667_2d43a2d427_z 15078908367_a2859f7fa1_z 15078908007_dbc16617ce_z 15078908217_1a38907f6b_z 15078907828_5b37bc46ac_z 15078907458_9c2ec09c79_z 15078907348_a42fabb1c3_z 15078730549_ec3755ec11_z 15078730169_a2451a215c_z

Night. A poem.


by Sahir D’Souza.

Sahir for the Blog

Sahir Avik D’souza is a student of standard ten and an avid reader. His interests are many, from poetry (in rhyme and metre!) to the English language (he is a grammar freak). You can keep up with him at his blog atwww.sahiravik.wordpress.com


At night, as stars glow, one hears our moon sing
a hundred songs: this, that and everything.
He sings of light and dark and good and bad.
At night, his songs can sound a trifle sad.

At night, there’s no-one walking on the streets.
Perhaps a lonely shop will sell you eats.
And as you walk home, it just comes to you:
at night, all’s lovely (sky, stars, moon) – it’s true!

At night, the world may seem like some charade –
but look beyond, for that’s just the façade.
For in the dark, as stars glow, the moon sings
a thousand songs: this, that and lots of things.
At night, it’s as though you’ve been given wings.

Budding writers

By Presha A Jain


Presha is a student of Standard 2 Shraddha. She loves to read stories. Some time back she also started to pen down her own stories. Here are two of them.

The Magical Toy

Once there was a singer. He had a wishing clock which gave him a necklace every day. One day he went hunting. That night he took shelter in a girl’s house. The girl’s name was Piya.

The next day he set off to go home. On the way home he was thinking that the girl had helped him to rest. So then he went to the toy shop. He took a boy doll for the girl. Suddenly the shop turned into a palace. Singer went to the girl’s house and gave her the doll. After the singer had left the girl started to play with the doll and to her surprise the doll started to talk. Then the doll started to run and it turned into a prince.

The girl was very happy she called the singer and asked the name of the shop. He said the name was ‘Magic’. The girl went to the shop and was surprised to see that shop had also turned into a palace. She turned into a princess. They both were happy with each other.

The Elephant and the Crow

Once upon a time there were two friends, an elephant and a crow. One day the crow received a gift. And the gift was some cheese.

Sometime later they both wanted to taste the cheese. But the crow did not want to share it. The crow was a smart fellow. He took a paper and wrote a letter to himself. He told Bhalu, the bear to act as a postman. The elephant acted to talk to someone over the phone.

They both were acting. They both were waiting for each other to go. Then finally the crow said, “After I will go, will you go?” The elephant agreed. After sometime he came and the crow saw that elephant was eating cheese. Then they both told each other their plan of eating cheese.

Teacher’s get time to reflect


  Shishuvan has some of the most dedicated, hard working teachers in the country. Lesson planning, keeping up with our high energy students, book looks, planning field trips, setting assignments and home work, planning project days and annual days… when do they find time to sit down and reflect?

Pre-Primary HOD Priti Bheda writes about Reflection Meetings, which are intended for just that.

Reflection meetings are conducted once a week, usually evereday Tuesday, for an hour. The Head of the Department and the teachers meet and we also include the support staff during these sessions if the agenda of the meeting requires their presence. For e.g., reflection meeting after any school event.

We also have a Whole School Reflection meeting (WSR) once a month which involves the entire teaching staff (and the non teaching staff , if required) which gives the teachers of a particular department an opportunity to mingle with their peers from other departments.

So why do we need a reflection meeting? Here are just a few things we do through our 60 minute sessions.

1. Share whether school philosophy is being translated into action and is visible on curriculum and discipline.

2. Ensure events/ activities purposes have been understood by all in the department in the same manner.

3. Ensure everyone knows why a decisions has been taken at any level.

4. Use the forum as a platform and a constructive space for teachers to develop their skills of presentation and share their ideas, experiences and learning relevant to the school’s philosophy and teaching and learning practices.

Last week, the Pre Primary Department had their reflection meeting. It was facilitated by two of our teachers (Kyra and Kunali ) who shared their learning of Art and Music therapy with the team.

One of the activities we conducted was the parachute activity in which teachers held a bed sheet(instead of the parachute) at its edges and followed various instructions like make ripples, waves, shake it, lift it up and down, walk around in a circle, change the direction, jump, run in a circle, move in and out in a circle, exchange places when names of two teachers were called out(by going under the bed sheet).

photo 2

Coloured balls were dropped in the bed sheet during the activity. The teachers had to work with each other so that the balls did not fall on the ground while continuing to follow instructions on how to handle the bed sheet.photo 3

After the activity, the entire team opened up to share their own ideas of how this could be used at all the three age groups in the department (Nursery, Sr. Kg and Jr. Kg) with modifications to the activity.

photo (1)

It was suggested that this game could be played with nursery children one month after their settling down in the class to help them start recognizing the names of their friends.

JrKg could play the game with each child being given a letter and the Srkg students could be given three letter words. These are just three of many wonderful ideas that came up.

photo 1

This activity gave everyone a chance to explore an idea with greater depth, experience the learning by doing the activity, share perspectives and open up possibilities of purposeful learning.

Shishuvan takes part in TES UK’s Teaching Moment in Time 2014

Think Educate Share is the motto of TES UK, a digital community of teachers from across the world.

“The TES story is an extraordinary one: its digital community is one of the fastest growing of any profession globally, and it boasts a 100-year heritage at the centre of teaching and the education community.

Today, with more than 3.6 million registered online users in 279 countries and territories , TES is the world’s largest online network of teachers. More than 4.9 million resources are downloaded from the TES websites a week, with ten TES resources downloaded a second. Home to more than 780,000 individually crafted teaching resources developed by teachers for teachers, this unparalleled collection helps to guide, inform and inspire educators around the world.”

TES Connect announced it’s second, Annual Teaching Moment in Time event and Shishuvan knew it had to be a part of the global sharing phenomena.

This is what TES UK has to say about last years event.

The project was an effort to use the power of social media to paint a picture of the world’s schools at one moment in time. We believed that if the idea worked, it could reveal the similarities and differences between the lives of teachers and students in countries around the globe.

Teachers got involved in their thousands. They emailed, tweeted, shared, commented and sent photos from Vanuatu in the South Pacific Ocean, from troubled Egypt, from Nova Scotia in Canada and even from the most remote school in the world on Tristan da Cunha in the Atlantic Ocean.

Shishuvan has a great deal to share with the global teaching and learning community and much it can learn to. The school also used the event as an opportunity to empower and train middle school students with better communication skills. All the photos and videos that were shared with TES UK were taken by enthusiastic middle school students who trooped around school looking for that perfect moment.

Here’s the live blog feed of Teaching Moment in Time.


Can we be India’s next Leading Reading School?


Shishuvan has signed up for Young India Books’ “Leading Reading Schools of India Award”.

The Leading Reading Schools of India Award is an annual award established by Young India Books – India’s foremost review site of children’s books; to recognize and honour the five leading schools of the country; schools that believe in the power of the written word and inculcate a love for books and reading. 

Here is what Raza H. Tehsin, Naturalist, Explorer & Hon. Wildlife Warden, Udaipur has to say about the awards,

“The Leading Reading Schools of India Award is an excellent initiative. Hope it encourages more and more children to discover the joys of reading and be, Wild about Wildlife.”

Children get to let their imagination go wild! The junior group can write about a day in the life of an animal in 100 – 300 words, or, they can  illustrate a scene from their selected book. Whilst, children from the senior category can write an autobiography of approx., 600 – 800 words about an animal that they have read about in one of the books fro the recommened reading list, or, they can illustrate the story in 3 – 4 pictures.

Winning schools will receive a citation plus a year’s membership to the Bombay Natural History Society and a big hamper of books.

Prizes will also be given to children in both the junior and senior categories and selected award-winning entries will be posted on the Young India Books website, in the Hornbill magazine and on the websites of our partners for this event.

The librarians of the top five schools who have successfully cast a magical spell of love for books on their students will also receive a token of appreciation.

All participating children will receive a participation certificate.

For more information about LRSIA, click here.

For this year’s reading recommendations, click here.

So school, what do you think? Does Shishuvan have what it takes to be a Leading Reading School? 

Making schools safer for children: Beyond the CCTV camera cure

- by Chintan Girish Modi.


Chintan Girish Modi is a freelance writer, educator, researcher, teacher trainer and copy editor. He is the founder of Friendships Across Borders: Aao Dosti Karein, an initiative to promote friendship between Indians and Pakistanis. This article first appeared on The Alternative, here, and has been reproduced on The Shishuvan blog, with the author’s consent.

For parents: This article contains makes reference to sexuality and sexual abuse. You may wish to read this with your child so that you can have a conversation with them about it afterwards. 

The terrifying news of a six-year old girl’s alleged rape in Bangalore’s posh Vibgyor School at the hands of her own teacher has unleashed tremendous concern about the safety of children in Indian schools. The anxiety is understandable, given the amount of trust parents invest in schools, considering children tend to spend almost eight hours or more in school on any given day. While increased security on the school premises, particularly the use of CCTV cameras is being talked about, it seems equally or more important to involve children in conversations about their own safety.

Akanksha Thakore Srikrishnan, Associate – Strategy, Innovation, Training at R. N. Podar School (CBSE), Mumbai, shares, “We are addressing the issue of safety and sexuality in our school through multiple conversations involving parents and students alike. One, for instance, is a session with mothers of adolescent girls scheduled to take place soon. The dialogue with students takes place within their classrooms, and is often anchored by the class teacher who is closest to them. Apart from that, the life skills instructors in the school are also designing special sessions around good touch-bad touch.”

Last year, the school had invited counsellor and actor Maninee Mishra Dey to lead a session titled ‘What’s the right thing to do?’ for their eleventh and twelfth graders. “It was a really fruitful, stimulating conversation that brought up concerns around support from parents, access to sound information, peer-pressure, choices, and responsibility. The students felt happy to have a channel to open up, share, discuss, and sound out their thoughts without any judgement. Some of them were comfortable discussing issues with their parents whereas there were those who didn’t share that equation and were happy to have the space to talk and listen.”


This emphasis on creating a safe space for children to ask questions is reiterated by Manasvini S. N., who teaches at an international school in Hyderabad, and also facilitates critical thinking programmes for teenagers. She remarks, “I am a firm believer of conversations with children – of all ages – on all matters where they should have agency, and that includes sexuality. I mostly deal with adolescents in school. But even with younger ones, I would talk, and encourage grown-ups to talk as well.”

Is it as simple as it sounds? Do all educators feel equipped to listen to the questions being posed? Do they sometimes feel threatened or embarrassed by the questions students ask? Manasvini says, “Unfortunately, grown-ups have not come to terms with their own sexuality in most cases, so it is imaginably difficult to manage such conversations. Even those grown-ups who are not squeamish about talking about sexuality, can do so only from their own filters of what is appropriate, safe, desirable sexuality.”

She adds, “Even to engage with a child, there are two questions – what do we need to talk about, and how to talk about it. Most adults don’t even know what to talk about, let alone how to talk about it. I think the conversation needs to shift from facts about the human body to what sexual acts are, what they mean, what the physical, mental and emotional consequences of sexual acts are, and the appropriate age range for each kind of sexual act. The follow up to such a conversation would be a how-to tutorial on what to do in the event of an unwelcome sexual event.”

Manasvini says that she has been approached by 13-17 year old students with questions/concerns such as these:

  • Is it okay to have multiple partners?
  • What’s so wrong with being gay?
  • How can anyone really be gay?
  • Is it really possible for me to have my emotional and sexual needs fulfilled by the same person? What if one person turns me on while another is emotionally nice to me – what should I do?
  • What is masturbation?
  • What’s so wrong with watching porn?
  • I feel guilty about having kissed/caressed this person (someone their age).
  • This person kissed/held me. I know I should be feeling upset, but I enjoyed it. I must be a horrible person.
  • What does a condom look like?

The questions that might come from younger students could include some or all of these, or be completely different from this list. Even students of the age group Manasvini is referring to, but from another social milieu or a different kind of school culture, might end up asking questions that are different. In fact, the same set of students might not feel comfortable posing these questions to another teacher in the same school. This is what one seems to gather even from what Akanksha says. How safe, comfortable and not-judged the students feel in their interaction with the individual educator/facilitator seems to matter a lot.

Referring to the list of questions mentioned earlier, Manasvini remarks, “See how limited it would be to talk about body parts and safety procedures when the real burning questions seem to be on these lines – how difficult it is to connect a moral or values-based view with the  hormonal one! How difficult the questions themselves could be for most adults to answer! My method is more of creating a non-judgmental environment where I am facilitating reflection, discovery and decision making, rather than providing information or prescribing actions. I fully acknowledge that this method cannot reach all youngsters – many will need a much less direct communication.”

Apart from riding on the capabilities of individual teachers, how can schools evolve institutional mechanisms to support children? Before we begin to talk about open communication between teachers and children, it would be useful to get the teachers, parents, counsellors, administrative staff, and support staff on the same page to affirm their commitment to creating a safer school environment for children. This may be difficult, as the Bangalore rape case indicates – where the child’s teacher is the accused.

Akhila Seshadri, a senior teacher with The School in Chennai, states, “I think CCTV cameras are a bad idea. Gosh! We must not make schools replicas of prisons and mental institutions. No! The key should be to build a culture of trust and caring always. Each school must evolve a safety policy with their staff. There must be a formal distance, particularly a physical one, between staff and students. No teacher must have a private conversation with children in a secluded spot. It can be private and yet within public view. No teacher must talk about sex, sexuality, safety issues on his or her own. Instead, there must be at least one other teacher who could provide feedback to him/her, if it is needed.”

She adds, “All this has been a result of several rounds of conversations in our staff meetings where we educated ourselves first about child sexual abuse, our own attitudes to sex and sexuality, our own deep seated fears and our blind spots: particularly notions of gender, religious dogma and so on, and then decided on school policy. It evolved together with all the teachers participating.”

Akhila advocates that safety education in a carefully planned manner should be made part of the timetable. Her school uses a booklet published by Tulir, a Chennai-based organization working on child sexual abuse, from grades one to five. From grade five to grade twelve, they have growing up classes focusing on sex, sexuality education and safety. The classes include a mix of activities, role plays, discussions and question-answer sessions.

“One activity could involve drawing themselves as they think they are,” she says, “And then drawing a sketch of themselves as they wish they were. Another is to look at advertisements and analyse them in terms of what reactions they create in them, the devices used, and to see if there are biases. This year, the grade 11 created a play on gender all culled from their experiences and questions.”

Akhila is one of the teachers who conduct these sessions with middle and senior school students at The School, Chennai. According to her, learning about ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ touch should begin with first graders. The understanding of ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ here includes thinking about pushing, hitting, trying out dangerous stunts, Truth or Dare games, and also touch which implies privacy and understanding what private parts are. This, she says, should continue into high school. However, the focus must change to learning to be assertive and safe at the same time.

She says, “The conversation must never become fear-inducing, rather it must make children feel that they can be in charge of their safety. The key things about these classes are that:

1. We invite children to ask the questions.
2. At least two teachers, as well as the class teacher, are present, and we look at sexuality, peer pressure, foul language, growing up and puberty, mutual respect, gender and stereotyping and media, and their responses to media.

And we have always responded immediately to what is happening outside. For example, many children were distressed over the Delhi rape that made to the front page of newspapers. Parents expressed helplessness in answering questions. In a way, we pre-empted and introduced the story in our classes and helped children understand their responses, their fears and feelings, and their difficulties.”

Is there any nationwide programme in India, working to empower children to protect themselves from sexual abuse? Prabha Nagaraja, Executive Director, TARSHI (Talking About Reproductive and Sexual Health Issues), shares, “We are in the process of writing a paper on sexuality education in India. We are hoping to get a sense of what is going on in different kinds of schools with respect to sexuality education. There is work in the area of sexuality education that is going on in schools though it is very difficult to actually get an overall picture.

As far as we know, some schools are actively engaged in conducting the governmentAdolescence Education Programme (AEP), while others are not. Some schools are also using their own curricula, based on their internal needs and perspectives. There is a lack of clarity on what form sexuality education takes. In some schools, it comes under Life Skills Education, in others under AEP. We prefer to use the term Comprehensive Sexuality Education.”

Resources for Educators:

Publications by Tulir: Centre for the Prevention and Healing of Child Sexual Abuse

TARSHI’s publications on sexuality education for children, educators and parents

The Y P Foundation’s Know Your Body Know Your Rights programme

Rahi Foundation’s Adolescents for Sexual Abuse Prevention (ASAP) programme

Child Sexual Abuse Awareness Programme by Childline

Personal Safety Education Programme by Arpan