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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Government-aided, RTE exempted Christian school Principal booked for sexual harassment of students

Yet another government aided RTE exempted Christian school is in news for sexual harassment. Headmaster of the school had sexually harassed 12th standard girl students and is absconding now after the girls’ parents lodged a complaint against him.

Christopher Jebakumar, the HM of Samaria Yovan Higher Secondary School in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu has been accused of sexually harassing the 12th standard students. He is said to have obtained their numbers in the pretext of organising special classes in holidays and sent them lewd messages. One victim, shocked by his behavior, talked about it to her classmates who revealed that they also received porn contents and lewd messages from the HM.

The girls told their parents who filed a complaint against Christopher under POCSO. But the HM is absconding and police are on the lookout for him. Samaria Yovan Higher Secondary School is run by the Tirunelveli diocese of the Church of South India. 10 days ago 3 children died after a lavatory wall collapsed on them in a government aided Christian school.

On December 3, the principal of a government aided Christian school and his wife were arrested for sexually abusing and hushing up the victim respectively. In November a school founded by evangelists and run using FCRA funds was in the news when one of their girl students tried to take her life. In another incident in the same month 65 year old founder of a Christian “home” was arrested by police after girl inmates ran away unable to bear the sexual harassment.

In June a Muslim school teacher was arrested under POCSO after he was found to have sexually harassed girl students by sending them lewd messages by obtaining their phone numbers in the pretext of conducting online classes.

In May another Christian school was served notice by the Tamil Nadu Education Department when sexual abuse complaints surfaced against its sports coach. 2 preachers of Scripture Union who conduct spiritual classes in Christian schools were found to have sexually harassed minor girls by sending them sexually provocative messages.

All these incidents have a commonality. All the concerned institutes are “minority” schools exempted from Right To Education Act. The RTE Act has stringent rules about safety in schools laying out the standards in detail. Many a time the “non-minority” are harassed for deviating even slightly from these standards some of which are impractical and frivolous. But minority institutions mainly run by Christians are exempted from following these rules. If the rules are for children’s safety shouldn’t it apply to all schools?

In 2017 the secretary of Department of School Education and Literacy under the Ministry of Human Resources & Development had written to the principal secretaries and secretaries of school education of all states and UTs expressing concern about students safety with regard to sexual abuse and corporal punishments. The letter directed the state departments to “put in place preventive institutional mechanisms and procedures” suggested in the guidelines sent by the department earlier. It drew attention to “incidents that highlighted the lack of safe and secure environment in schools”.

In the guidelines the department emphasized how the responsibility of keeping children safe from “sexual abuse” totally vests with the teachers. The RTE Act has specified rules for the redressal system notified by every state which involves School Management Committees(SMC). Section 21 of the RTE Act mandates the formation of School Management Committees. But minority schools even if they receive government aid are exempted from following these standards.

Even though minority institutions are exempted from the RTE Act, governments give them special monetary benefits as well. IDMI scheme is one such scheme in which minority institutions can avail Rs.50 lakh or 75% of the total estimate if they want to expand the infrastructure. If it were a Hindu run institution, Dravidianists and liberals would have descended on Hindus with contempt terming it as an RSS, BJP, Hindutva ideological crime. 

When PSBB, a school run by Brahmins in Chennai, was in news when one of their teachers sexually harassed students, and when the same happened in Chinmaya Vidyalaya in Coimbatore, media and Dravidianists dragged them through mud just for teaching Sanatani values. Yet despite claiming to be rationalists none of them even recognise the disparity in the field of education and rather seem to think that if not for the missionaries Bharatiyas would have been illiterate.

But the cultural degradation Christian schools bring about is for everyone to see. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights has been doing exemplary work in exposing the toxic environment in Christian run institutions. But the burden of recognising this threat and saving our children lies on everyone.

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