For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser.

Holistic School Safety Approach for Children

It is the collective responsibility of all the stakeholders to ensure safety within schools and outside
12:46 AM Apr 29, 2024 IST | Guest Contributor
holistic school safety approach for children
Photo: Mubashir Khan/GK

Children spend a considerable amount of their time in school, as well as in going to and coming back from school.They are exposed to risks of abuse, violence, disasters, health concerns and other forms of risks to their safety that arise from the location of the school, standards of service provision in the schools and facilities available in the school. Girls, children with disabilities and those from marginalised communities are the most vulnerable of them all.


Children anywhere are a vulnerable section in the society, prone to threats coming from emergencies. Globally there is a shift in how we look at emergencies by planning during peacetime. The scenarios are to be created well before the onslaught of an emergency as preventive or pre-disaster activity. We cannot afford to lose children in any emergency situation.


We have seen during the Kashmir Earthquake of 2005 that over 10 percent of lives lost were children. In the Uri region of the valley over 50 % of the dead were children in the age group of 0-18 years. Lately, we witnessed children at risk to man-animal conflict.


We all avidly remember when a child was lifted by a leopard from her home in Ompora evoking huge public outcry. All these cases point towards a pattern. We lost children on their way to school yesterday as the boat ferrying them capsized in Gandbal, Srinagar. There could be more such avoidable eventualities waiting to be acted upon with multi-pronged strategies.


We have known for decades that emergencies do not always come with warnings. Sometimes these events are too quick to act, so we only react in panic. Reactions are short of any concrete results in the long term.


Question is what makes the children vulnerable to these events? What contributes to risks which cause the loss? Who should be involved to build resilience; towards making a society more disaster ready so that we can minimise the loss of lives?


Safety of children


An emergency or disaster can typically be a situation where lives, physical and mental well-being, or development opportunities are threatened as a result of disaster or the breakdown of social or legal order, and where local capacity to cope is exceeded or inadequate.

In this debate School Safety as the creation of safe environments for children, starting from their homes to their schools and back. Therefore, unlike popularly known ,the concept of safety isn’t a stand-alone term assigned to schools only.

School Safety has to be holistic, multi stakeholder and to be reviewed periodically. Hon’ble Supreme Court verdict on a petition (483/2004) by Avinash Mehrotra vs Union of India directed that the children must get a safe environment for education across the country. Therefore, it is a collective responsibility of all the stakeholders to ensure safety & security within schools and in the community.

Public Participation

The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” conveys the message. It takes many to provide a safe, healthy environment for children, where children are given the security they need to develop and flourish, and to be able to realise their hopes and dreams. The ‘village’ includes parents, siblings, extended family members, neighbours, teachers, professionals, community members and policy makers. All these ‘villagers’ may provide direct care to the children and support the parent in looking after their children.

Our collective pain should be directed towards action which has to be more a strategy in partnership with efforts made by other stakeholders like administration with professional experts. Remember, public is the central stakeholder in creating any concerted effort to safeguard the lives of children during emergencies.

Perhaps the first thing to do is to involve all the stakeholders with a whole school concept as it is a common concern for us all. The Whole School Community involves children, caregivers, teachers, school management, community leaders and committees, and government.

Raising disaster awareness in school community with parents within and outside the school system is one way to mitigate the risks involved. A school should know the hazards around so that it could well be understood how hazards unattended make way for a risky situation. Remember a spark neglected burns the house.

The School Education Department can play a vital role in expanding children’s awareness and knowledge about risk and resilience issues while aiming to address the key priority of child safety and security in schools and beyond. This has also been impressed upon by Samaghra Shiksha which lays down school safety as a priority.

The comprehensive school safety framework (CSSF) which is significant work on school safety is based on the whole school approach and speaks of creating safe school practices in schools. The framework elaborates on child safety with safety plans viz, School Disaster Management Plan (SDMP) necessarily communicated with stakeholders like the nearest medical facility, fire & emergency services and the law enforcement agencies as well.

The school level draft document which is approved by the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA), the Deputy Commissioner then approves the plan at the apex level in each district. This vision document is the result of vast consultation with key partners within and around the school most importantly the community which has the majority say in formulation of plans.

A lot of technical work like vulnerability and risk analysis is also required. It is a priority area to know the risks which threaten the community.The assessment is the ongoing process for identifying and prioritising risks reviewed each year. It is an important step for helping schools to understand what are the risks from and just how seriously they could be affected.

Again, a local participatory approach in risk analysis at school, community and district that could help to identify hazards is a must. Schools need to use appropriate tools to capture the relevant data needed to inform the development and maintenance of customised plans.

Resource mapping follows up next to put in place necessary resources for the purpose of relief, rehabilitation and reintegration back to normal life.

Disaster Action

We cannot build a resilient disaster management system overnight. It needs continuous efforts to create an ecosystem of safety.

Last year there was an exercise done at district levels to augment the district level disaster management plans. The data is available with the district level monitoring teams to take data based informed decisions. For example, in case of heavy rainfall which areas are more prone to floods or landslides through data available already there in the plan.

The concerned authorities have the required mandate to act accordingly so that targeted action is taken. The schools lying near water bodies have the risk of inundation which may require safe evacuation or closure in advance as has been the past practice.

Furthermore, mock drills and alert mechanism are required to be developed at the local level so that real time information reaches the children through participatory mode. Psycho-social support for children before, during & post disaster is a valid concern, taken care of with wide interventions planned at various training institutes. Yet a lot needs to be done for children with special needs and gender based empowerment during any such emergency.

Review, Revise, and Reassess

We do not need to hang out boots after the plans. Periodic review and regular updation of plans at institutional levels is needed. Safety audit is also a prerequisite for lessons learnt are needed to make necessary course corrections.

The pain which larger communities undergo right after any such emergency is known to us all, so is the heroic efforts by the volunteering youth. We have an opportunity to galvanise the efforts to make these acts of valour create a culture of safety.

Our Community members have been the first responders in any emergency situation. A trained person can be our asset in response mechanisms. In this regard a case for emergency education with personalised safety mechanisms is most desired. Noah didn’t waste time but built the boat to safeguard humanity. Let us pledge to act before another tragedy falls on us. 

BY Rameez Ahmad Sudhan

The author is a Fulbright Fellow and a teacher by profession. He is presently posted at DIET Baramulla.