In February this year, report of a group of men sexually assaulting and abusing the students of Gargi College (DU) in India’s National capital New Delhi, in the middle of college festival garnered national attention. A fellow student whose social media post went viral wrote “Reverie 2020 was a traumatic experience for most of us. There were drunk, middle-aged men harassing us, molesting us and masturbating at us.”
In September 2019, Twitter was trending with #justiceformadhav #justiceforharsh after news of 3 students brutally thrashed by and injured caught media attention over a minor parking issue at Amity University, Noida. Madhav Chaudhary and Harsh Yadav, both pursuing BA Political Science were attacked by over a dozen students after a clash over parking in the college campus with 2 other girls escalated.
In 2019, a five-year-old girl was found raped in a South Delhi private school by a non-teaching staff of the group. Parents of 3 other young students alleged that their daughters were abused by the same man after the revelation.
In September 2018, a junior student was beaten up in the name of ragging by senior students outside the college premise at Vagamon. The student suffered major injuries and had to be hospitalized. A month before this incident, almost a hundred students were met with “inhuman treatment” as part of ragging at a leading medical college in Uttar Pradesh.
In August 2018, the Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur, Chhattisgarh witnessed days of protest where women students claimed extreme cases of moral policing, illegal extension of former VC’s tenure and hushed cases of sexual harassment. Snehal Ranjan, HNLU Student Bar Association president was quoted saying, “Several complaints of sexual harassment were not raised due to the fear of the previous VC.”
In 2011, a girl was beheaded within the campus of St. Xavier’s College Ranchi rocked the city and college administration. Years down the lane, college students refrain from speaking about the administration and college environment. Students on the condition of not being named shared that their college IDs are confiscated often by merely talking to the opposite gender or being in the corridor during class hours. Students have shared horror stories of assault and sexism but fear from naming themselves or the offenders.
News like these are not new to us, nor are they limited.
Education institutes are one’s second home. Schools and colleges are supposed to be one’s safe space. Spaces where we grow, learn, explore, make friends, meet ourselves, and make partners. Educational institutions are the places our parents and families leave us without having to worry about our safety and security. Where teachers are our guardians while the rest a family. The one primary duty of education institutes’ is to keep their students safe from internal or external threats. But what happens when schools and colleges become breeding grounds for crimes? When these institutes focus more on disciplining the students than securing them? When they safeguard their interests by endangering the students? Or when education institutes give impunity to the offenders and become partners in crime? What when the same hands that are trusted with students’ responsibilities endanger students?
According the MHRD reports, 62.1 million children are out of school in India. Of the many reasons that include poverty, accessibility, and availability, safety and security issues also remain an important cause for children dropping out. Debates regarding infrastructure and quality teaching are always raised, despite repeated instances of students’ safety and security breach, not much attention has been paid to the matter.
Founder of Jacob Paramedical College at Irachchakulam was arrested on account of sexual harassment charges along with two women joint directors of the college, for allegedly helping him in March 2019.
Students go to schools and colleges leaving behind their comfort and family. The Education Institutes in India have for long been focusing on disciplining the students, instead of making the premise student-friendly and cooperative. Most school going and college students complain of sexist and hostile environments within campuses. Along with stereotyping and essentializing gender roles, the schools and colleges also refrain from understanding child psychology and acting accordingly. Restricting students’ movement and fluidity and imposing colonial period rules is not how students shall be dealt with. The recent #Boyslockerroom has struck an important issue for education institutes to pay attention to. Schools and colleges play a very important role in shaping a child’s opinion. They are one’s center for knowledge and information.
Its time educational institutes start having the discussion for creating a more secure and student-friendly environment, which works in the best of interest of students and society.