Butwal Sub-metropolis implements programme to end incidents of sexual abuse in schoolsUnder the programme, every school is supposed to assign a focal person for resolving complaints filed by students.
In November last year, a tenth-grade student filed a complaint at the local police accusing her school principal, Toyaram Paudel, of repeatedly molesting her.
As per the complaint filed by the student’s relatives, the Area Police Office in Butwal detained Paudel and filed a sexual assault charge against him. He was released a few months ago, and the case is now pending at the High Court in Tulsipur.
After the incident came to light, the student, out of fear of being chastised by her classmates and teachers, discontinued her education in the school. She enrolled in another one and will be giving her Secondary Education Examinations this year.
This is not a lone incident in Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City. Reports of sexual abuse in educational institutions have surfaced before too, say locals. In a bid to ensure these incidents do not repeat and to assure guardians that students are learning in a safe environment, the Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City is launching a programme to raise awareness on bullying and sexual abuse.
“We decided to launch the programme to make schools friendlier and safer for children, as we believe that incidents of molestation, harassment and misconduct are going unchecked,” said Guma Devi Acharya, deputy mayor of Butwal. “Several studies and reports have pointed out that schoolgirls are more prone to gender violence. We think that a gender-friendly, equal environment in schools will certainly help eliminate such instances from occuring again and provide safe learning opportunities to students, especially girls.”
Under the programme, every school is supposed to assign a focal person, a counsellor of sorts. The focal person’s job is to promptly take initiatives to resolve any complaints that are filed by students. The sub-metropolis has also urged schools to install at least one complaint box, manage separate toilets, etc.
The programme has been launched under the guidelines set by the federal government two years ago.
On Monday, the sub-metropolis held an interactive session with the principal/headmaster of various schools and other stakeholders regarding implementation of the working guidelines. There are altogether 57 community and institution schools in Butwal Sub-metropolis.
“Complaint boxes have been installed in every school, and students have been encouraged to drop their complaints,” said Prem Bahadur Basnet, headmaster at Nabin Audyogik Kadar Bahadur Rita School, in Butwal.
The sub-metropolis hopes that the programme will also help in decreasing the dropout rate among girls. “It is essential to make teachers work towards ending any activity that threatens the safety of students in schools,” said Mitramani Khanal, chief of the education unit of the sub-metropolis.