Following the alleged rape of a six-year-old girl that brought Bengaluru to a standstill in 2014, the city police issued stringent safety guidelines to schools. One of the key provisions of these guidelines mandated staff verification. Months later, MN Reddi, the then police commissioner, suggested psychological profiling of employees.
Two years since the incident, schools remain places where children are vulnerable to such crimes and little progress has occurred in the implementation of the 2014 guidelines.
While the Karnataka government struggles to ensure that schools implement these guidelines, a Bengaluru-based couple has created an innovative solution that works on a participatory principle.
In June 2016, Tanuka and her husband Somendu Dutta kicked off Staff You Trust (SYT), a website and app which allows organisations working closely with children to maintain their employee records. This web-based resource is conceived to cover not only schools and day care centres but also registered activity centres, orphanages, crĂ¨ches and so on.
Tanuka says this not only works as a database for the school, but can also double up as a portfolio for persons who work with children. Through the digital platform employers can validate a person's track record before hiring. With the optional provision for linking Aadhaar details to the profiles, it will offer a comprehensive range of information on potential employees in schools and other institutions.
â€śAn individualâ€™s reputation, which he or she has built up over the years, is lost as one moves across organisations and cities, especially in the education sector. They all start afresh when they find another job in the same sector,â€ť she said.
â€śUnlike architects, photographers or techies a person who has worked with children, does not maintain a portfolio. Most of them donâ€™t even have a referral when it comes to moving to another organisation. Employers find it exceedingly difficult and time-consuming to validate a person's track record before hiring,â€ť she says.
The application does have some similarities to LinkedIn, the professional networking platform. However, while the latter allows for testimonials by colleagues as well as employers, SYT only allows authorized persons from an organisation to provide testimonials for their staff.
â€śOnly registered organisations will be allowed to sign up. Once signed up, employees in the school can voluntarily open profiles,â€ť she says.
On why they advise against mandatory registration of all staff members on the database, Tanuka says, â€śForcing someone to do something will not work out well for the person and for the organisation. In turn, the results wonâ€™t be genuine.â€ť
On SYT, she adds, a schoolâ€™s database will have various sections for personnel working in the areas of transportation, security, cafeteria, housekeeping and so on, besides teaching staff.
â€śIf it is a big organisation, each subsection can have a co-ordinator who can refer the staff. If it is a small organisation one person can act as the referee. Just like a reference letter is written by someone and signed by the head of the organisation, this too is a two-step process where it is a two-step process where the reference is first created, and then approved (by same/different authority in the organisation). Once it is acknowledged by the employee, it gets saved and they cannot make changes to it,â€ť she explains.
Tanuka says that this initiative can save schools and other organisations a lot of paper work.
â€śIndividuals can share their details (except their contacts) with the organisations they are interested in working with in the future. Their profile will not be accessible by all organisations, which ensures privacy,â€ť she said.
She also claims that this will work well for people who come back to work after a break, especially women who often take a break during pregnancy.
While the registration of a profile on the database is voluntary, says Tanuka, individuals are not given the option to cherry pick the testimonials they are given. â€śThe app does not give the individual the choice to choose which testimonial he or she wants to show the new organisation. If there has been some problem with acknowledgement of the testimonial, the employer can check with the previous employer for a clarification.â€ť
The Beta version of the application was launched in June, and Tanuka is currently in the process of building up a customer base for it.
Since June she has spoken to dozens of schools in the city, and she says that many have shown interest in SYT.
While the application currently only has provision for people who are already employed, Tanuka says that SYT plans to tie up with training institutes that can certify freshers in the future.
She adds that new features will be added and the app developed further based on feedback received from users.