Child – responsibilities and obligations of Preschool and School Stakeholders
The Government of India in pursuance of Constitutional provisions evolved a National Policy for the Welfare of Children. This Policy starts with a goal-oriented perambulatory introduction:
“The nation’s children are a supremely important asset. Their nurture and solicitude are our responsibility ..”
In the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 20th November, 1959. The Declaration in its Preamble points out that
“the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth”, and that
“mankind owes to the child the best it has to give”.
“Every child has a right to love and be loved and to grow up in an atmosphere of love and affection and of moral and material security” – Honorable Justice P N Bhagwati
“best interest of the child is paramount” – Honorable Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Honorable Justice Madan B. Lokur
We are a civilized society having well established legal process, legislature, judiciary and various other administrative and judicial bodies. So let us see the entire ‘Child – responsibilities and obligations of Preschool and School Stakeholders’ from the constitutional perspective.
Latin maxim ‘parens patriae’; Court is ‘parens patriae’ for minor children, that means Court has guardianship over minor children and is duty bound to protect minor children and issue direction in relation to these.
Honorable Supreme Court in case of Laxmi Kant Pandey Vs. Union of India (1984) 2 SCC, 244, (from the bench of Honorable Justice P N Bhagwati) made following observations:-
“The child is a soul with a being, a nature and capacities of its own, who must be helped to find them, to grow into their maturity, into fullness of physical and vital energy and the utmost breath, depth and height of its emotional intellectual and spiritual being; otherwise there cannot be a healthy growth of the nation. Now obviously children need special protection because of their tender age and physique, mental immaturity and incapacity to look after themselves. That is why there is a growing realization in every part of the globe that children must be brought up in an atmosphere of love and affection and under the tender care and attention of parents so that they may be able to attain full emotional, intellectual and spiritual stability and maturity and acquire self-confidence and self-respect and a balance view of life with full appreciation and realization of the role which they have to play in the nation building process without which the nation cannot develop and attain real prosperity because a large segment of the society would then be left out of the developmental process. In India this consciousness is reflected in the provisions enacted in the Constitution. Clause (3) of Article 15 enables the State to make special provisions inter alia for children and Article 24 provides that no child below the age of fourteen years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. Clauses (e) and (f) of Article 39 provide that the State shall direct its policy towards securing inter alia that the tender age of children is not abused, that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age and strength and that children are given facility to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment. These constitutional provisions reflect the great anxiety of the constitution makers to protect and safeguard the interest and welfare of children in the country. The Government of India has also in pursuance of these constitutional provisions evolved a National Policy for the Welfare of Children. This Policy starts with a goal oriented perambulatory introduction.”
Importance of Preventive Aspects:
Child is subject to various abuses, Criminal Courts in India are filled with plenty cases.
Honorable Supreme Court in case of Shankar Kisanrao Khade Vs. State of Maharashtra (2013) 5, SCC, 546, (from the coram of Honorable Justice K.S. Panicker Radhakrishnan and Honorable Justice Madan B. Lokur) made following observations:-
“I may also point out that, in large numbers of cases, children are abused by persons known to them or who have influence over them. Criminal Courts in this country are galore with cases where children are abused by adults addicted to alcohol, drugs, depression, marital discord etc. Preventive aspects have seldom been given importance or taken care of. Penal laws focus more on situations after commission of offences like violence, abuse, exploitation of the children. Witnesses of many such heinous crimes often keep mum taking shelter on factors like social stigma, community pressure, and difficulties of navigating the criminal justice system, total dependency on perpetrator emotionally and economically and so on. Some adult members of family including parents choose not to report such crimes to the police on the plea that it was for the sake of protecting the child from social stigma and it would also do more harm to the victim. Further, they also take shelter pointing out that in such situations some of the close family members having known such incidents would not extend medical help to the child to keep the same confidential and so on, least bothered about the emotional, psychological and physical harm done to the child.
“Sexual abuse” can be in any form like sexually molesting or assaulting a child or “allowing a child to be sexually molested or assaulted” or encouraging, inducing or forcing the child to be used for the sexual gratification of another person, using a child or “deliberately exposing” a child to sexual activities or pornography or procuring or allowing a child to be procured for commercial exploitation and so on.
“In my view, whenever we deal with an issue of child abuse, we must apply the best interest child standard, since best interest of the child is paramount and not the interest of perpetrator of the crime. Our approach must be child centric.”
Honorable Additional Sessions Judge Illa Rawat (Delhi) in State Vs. Ram Singh under section 342/376/511 of Indian Penal Code and 6 & 10 of POCSO (Prevention Of Child Against Sexual Offences) Act [Judgment pronounced on 22nd December 2014]; refers case of Laxmi Kant Pandey Vs. Union of India and made following observation :-
“…the concept of welfare and wellbeing of children is basic for any civilized society and this has a direct bearing on the state of health and wellbeing of the entire community, its growth and development”
“It has been time and again emphasized in various legislations, international declarations as well as the judicial pronouncements that the children are a ‘supremely important national asset’ and the future well-being of the nation depends on how its children grow and develop”
Learning we shall take home:
1. Whatever we do, only one thermometer to test its justification is “welfare of the child”.
2. Preschools and Schools shall make Child ‘understand’ about his/her importance in the Society.
3. Preschools and Schools shall teach Child about his/her ‘Rights’, this will also help them in making children aware about their responsibilities.
4. We need to take “Preventive Steps”, with respect to everything we do, so as to protect the child from any kind of abuses.
5. Prompt reporting of Crime is utmost necessary. Principal, Teachers, shall never stop themselves from reporting, the “Child” is a combined responsibility of Society.
Always remember, things works, we just need to take appropriate steps.
(List is NOT exhaustive)
Every New Year, we all start with a resolution, such resolution might come from our learnings, our failures or our aspirations.
Let this Year 2015 be a year of Child Rights, let your Preschool also be a ‘Preschool standing for Child Rights’.
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