Workshop on child sexual abuse is not 'beyond' curriculum: Tulir reacts to Bala Vidya Mandir controversy
Known for its decades-old quality in education, Adyar’s CBSE-affiliated school, Bala Vidya Mandir is in the eye of controversy over a dual fees structure that discriminates between students. Both parents and the teaching body are up in arms against the school’s management over a recent circular which forces students into two categories - one a regular programme providing basic education and another a list of “advanced” activities provided to students paying higher fees; all within the same campus. The circular issued by the school lists 59 items that are termed as activities ‘beyond normal school’. Featuring in the circular as item no 46 is ‘TULIR training programme on prevention of child sexual abuse.’ Tulir- Centre for the Prevention and Healing Child Sexual Abuse (CPHCSA) is an organization based out of Chennai working on the prevention and healing of child sexual abuse. Tulir conducts workshops for both children and adults, and has conducted seven workshops for teachers in various Bala Vidya Mandir schools in Chennai, Bengaluru, Coimbatore, Salem and Trichy during the academic year 2014-15. Tulir’s co-founder Vidya Reddy said she was surprised to see Tulir’s workshops included in the list. “I do not believe any sort of sexual abuse prevention initiative of a school should be considered as ‘beyond normal school’, as the circular says. Prevention of child sexual abuse is a given and if a school doesn’t have such an initiative, it reflects badly on them. In fact a culture of safety that permeates a school will definitely enhance the learning experience,” Vidya Reddy said. Though Tulir does charge for its workshops, in the case of Bala Vidya Mandir, with which it has had a long association with, no fee was charged during 2014-15. Vidya Reddy said that for the workshops Bala Vidya Mandir paid only for transportation and hospitality, when needed. She however added that both Bala Vidya Mandir and its CEO, SS Nathan had been pioneers in introducing child sexual abuse awareness classes in 2004, in spite of much resistance from many. Parents and teachers have swiftly criticised the school management’s change in system after a government appointed Singaravelan committee set the school’s fee range for classes 1 to 12 between Rs. 32,000 to Rs. 39,0000. A petition has been submitted on Tuesday by parents of BVM students to the Singaravelan committee over complaints against the new enforcement of the fee structure.