Schools are critical infrastructure entrusted with the responsibility of creating citizens of tomorrow. A safe and secure environment is a prerequisite for effective teaching and learning. Thus ensuring safety of children, teachers and staff members during disasters is necessary. It becomes of utmost importance that safety of children is given due consideration, thus making schools safe also serves the purpose of their dual use as evacuation centres during emergencies.
Building safe schools should be a priority for architects, engineers, policy makers, administrators and emergency response planners. Among all public facilities, children in schools are the most vulnerable during disasters. A large number of schools operate in congested urban centres and are exposed to various hazards. School safety includes within its ambit structural safety of the buildings per se and non-structural measures like awareness generation, ensuring communication, school preparedness plans, capacity building of students and teachers, rehearsals and mock drills etc. Building safe schools will not only ensure safety of children in disasters, but will also promote faster rehabilitation post disaster.
What is school safety
"School Safety" has been defined as creating safe environment for children, starting from their homes to their schools and back. This includes safety from any kind of abuse, violence, psycho-social issue, disaster: natural and manmade, fire, transportation. Emotional safety is especially important because it is often difficult for teachers and parent s to detect emotional problems and difficulties in children. Bullying can cause victimized students to suffer from lower self-esteem and daily stress about their well-being.
Indicative Child safety checklist for schools
This safety checklist takes into consideration different dimensions of child safety and provides indicators under five important sections.
- Section-I deals with Physical Safety
- Section-II - Emotional and Personal Safety
- Section III - Social Safety
- Section-IV - Emergency Preparedness
- Section-V deals with Cyber Safety
Section I - Physical safety
- Is the School building as per the norms under National Building Code of India 2005?
- Does the school maintain the standards and norms of the school as specified in section 19 of the RTE Act?
- Has the building been certified as per the norms as safe for housing the students by the local authorities?
- Is the school building and premises free from inflammable and toxic materials?
- Are there ramps at the entry to the school, classrooms, toilets, playground, library, canteen and auditorium for children with disabilities?
- Whether Alarm system/Centralized Public Announcement system are in stalled in the school?
- Is the CCTV monitoring system monitored regularly?
- Are the electrical fittings in the classrooms and corridor working properly and are secured properly?
- Switch Board/main switches working properly, are the switch board covered and cautioned?
- Whether checked if water coolers and other electrical gadgets are transferring shock? If yes than remedial measures taken or not?
- Has there been any case of electric shock or problem of any type reported by the staff/student?
- Any Sparks or Short circuit occurred in past one week?
- Are the corridors and staircases clear of obstruction?
- Classroom door and emergency doors clear of obstruction?
- Floor evacuation plan displayed properly.
- Fire extinguishers are in place.
- Any high voltage wires / cables/towers in the school premises? If yes, access is restricted properly?
- Water filter/ purifier/ RO system functional?
- School has separate toilets as per prescribed, for girls and boys?
- Are there separate toilets for children with disabilities?
- Are there separate toilet blocks for children for 3 to 6 years of age?
- Are there attendants for children in age group for 3-6 years to assist children?
- Is there running water facility in all the toilets?
- If toilets are cleaned and maintained regularly?
- If toilets are having arrangements for disposing waste material, especially for girls? Are these functional?
- Whether ceiling tiles or plaster hanging from the wall/roof?
- Is there any dampness in wall?
- Cross ventilation in classrooms and library maintained or not?
- Are rooms properly illuminated with lighting?
- Any Problem in chemical labs? Whether chemicals placed properly, ventilated and exhaust working?
- Is lightening conductor in place and working properly? (Specially prior to and during Rainy Season)
- Is First Aid kit in place?
- Any suggestions from students/staff for upgrading floor safety?
- Is the school premises disabled friendly?
- Is lift in the school is capable of serving the needs of children with disabilities.
- Open wells/ponds (if exists) in the school campus have protective walls and iron grills covering the wells/ponds?
- Whether movement of students towards wells/ponds/river/canals/tanks (if exists) is restricted?
- Does the School have a swimming pool?
- Are the (Sports Authority of India) SAI guidelines for swimming pool being followed?
Fire Safety Management
- Does the school have a fire safety certificate?
- Is the fire safety certificate of school updated and renewed periodically?
- Does the school have adequate fire fighting systems in place to meet any emergency?
- Is the school in touch with local fire fighting agencies for mock drill training to a crisis management group?
- Are emergency steps in place in the school for fire safety management?
- Is there a trained management team available in the school for initial fire hazard management?
- Is the school in touch with the local fire safety authorities for training and retraining the people?
- Has the school obtained NOC from Fire and Rescue Services Department?
- Are there any cracks in the school structures and are steps being taken to repair them?
- Is the school situated in old or dilapidated buildings?
- If so, has it been brought to the notice of the local authorities or management so that adequate steps are taken for relocating the school?
- Is there a trained disaster management group available in school for initial response?
- Is the school in touch with the local disaster management authorities for training and retraining them?
- Is the school located near any railway track? If yes, is the impact of such locations being examined by the local authorities for the safety of the students?
- Is the school situated in the earthquake risk zone?
- How safe is the school building to face a natural disaster of this kind?
- Are there any emergency steps in place for disaster preparedness at schools?
- Are periodic earthquake drills being conducted as per the guidelines of NDMA?
- Have necessary steps been taken during construction of the building for earthquake safety for the building?
- Are the staff of the school trained/ oriented for initial response w.r.to disaster management?
- Is the school in touch with the local disaster management authorities for training and retraining them?
- Is the school situated near seashore or a river? If so, are adequate measures taken to avoid easy access by children?
- Are there any contingency plan prepared by school in dealing with natural disasters such as floods/flash floods, cyclones, cloud bursts and heavy rains?
- Is there a transport mechanism in place for emergency transport of students?
- Is the school situated on hilltops or where there is a possibility of landslide? If so, adequate measures are in place to evacuate children, if required?
- Is the school located near an industry or a chemical factory producing fatal chemical products? If so, adequate measures are in place to evacuate children or carry out first aid, if required?
- How safe are the electrical systems in the school? Are they being checked periodically?
- Has the school ensured limited access to the area of electrical installation only to those who are required?
- Are there any uncovered live wires?
- Warning signs are displayed near electric poles?
Safety from Constructional Hazards
- Does the school have any ongoing construction? Permission from local authorities for construction / repair has been taken?
- Has the school put barricades and signboards in the construction area prohibiting the movement of students?
- Water storage sources for any construction are covered to prevent small children from any possible mishap.
Safety in the Playground and Sports Activities
- Is the school following guidelines and norms and standards laid down by Sports Authority of India (SAI)?
- Has the school obtained NOC from the competent authority before starting sports facilities?
- Has the school conducted police verification of the staff employed for sports activities in the school?
- Coaches employed in the school are qualified or trained?
- Sports specific standard safety equipment like helmet, lifeguard jackets, safety guards etc are made available for the players?
- Is the school playground safe for the students to play games?
- Is the safety certificate for drinking water has been obtained or not? 83. Is the water source well protected?
- Is the water provided to the students tested by the local authorities periodically?
- Does the school ensure safe potable water always?
- Does the school have a water management system in the event of a fire? Is there access to such sources?
- Are the laboratories in the school positioned as per rules?.
- Is there space for free mobility for students in case of an emergency?
- Are the chemicals and instruments kept safely beyond the access of others?
- Is there a first aid box available in the laboratory?
- Is there proper ventilation and exhaust facility in the laboratory?
- Has the school displayed the first aid procedures for the students in the laboratory?
- Is the school team trained to meet any emergency in the laboratory?
Transport Management and Safety
- Is the school owning/ running buses on lease for students?
- Has the school complied with the rules and regulations stipulated by the local transport authorities and guidelines by Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
- Are the teachers’ delegated responsibilities for transport management?
- Are the school bus drivers trained and have a regular license?
- Police verification of bus staff, mainly drivers have been done before appointing them.
- Has the school obtained a signed affidavit from all its employees that they have not been accused of offence under any child related laws/legislations, particularly POCSO Act, 2012 and JJ Act, 2015?
- Does the school ensure whether the students are cautioned to keep a safe distance before starting the bus?
- Are the students trained by the school in maintaining orderliness in buses?
- Have the children been exposed to traffic rules?
- Fire extinguishers are there in the school bus? Details please.
- Whether seats for children with locomotors disability are reserved in the bus?
- Is there a first aid box in the school bus?
- Is there a student feedback system with regard to transport facility, driver/conductor etc.?
- Dos a teacher or attendant escort the children till their stop after de-boarding the bus?
Section-II: Emotional and Personal Safety
- Does the school have a trauma management team to meet any accident or disaster?
- Does the school have the contacts available for trauma management?
- Are the senior persons in the school aware of the telephone number of the hospitals, ambulance and the fire stations near the school?
Safety of the children with disabilities
- Are the school and premises disabled friendly?
- Are there any designated official in the school who is entrusted with the exclusive responsibility of their needs in any emergency?
- Whether students who are differently abled are accompanied by a Teacher or attendant when using toilets?
- Teachers and Students are educated and sensitive to fellow students who are differently abled?
- Does the school keep the medical records of students with special health problems?
- Is there is a doctor-on-call for emergency, in school?
- Does school hold regular health check-ups as prescribed by the Department of Education (DoE)?
- Individual Child Health Card/File is maintained and updated periodically?
- Parents communicate their child’s health issues to the school authority?
- Does the school have tie up with a nearest hospital of the school?
- Whether the medical room is equipped to handle medical emergencies?
- Whether basic medicine kit/first- aid box is available in the school.
- The First-Aid protocols for common injuries is displayed at prominent places in school?
- Contact numbers of Doctor, Hospital, Ambulance, including private service, for emergency medical care are displayed in a prominent location.
- Teachers and key staff are trained in first aid and CPR. Whether they have basic training in counselling, identification of disabilities, learning difficulties etc.
- Whether Health Education to students on health issues including balanced diet, nutritious alternatives to junk food, regular eating habits, personal hygiene etc are provided.
- Is there a dietician/meal planner for mid-day meals?
- Is there a separate kitchen with store facility for the mid-day meal program.
- Whether kitchen is kept clean, hygienic, rodent and pest free?
- Whether all food products are kept covered and stored hygienically?
- Gas stoves with ISI mark, is kept in a safe place, maintained and checked regularly?
- Children are not allowed to use the gas stove.
- Are teachers present when students have their meals and will observe their eating habits?
Sanitation and Hygiene
- Are there separate toilets for boys and girls?
- Are there toilets for children with special needs?
- Whether toilets doors have child friendly latch?
- Does school regularly conduct hand washing sessions for children?
- Regular inspections of water and sanitation facilities are being conducted?
- Hygiene messages have been integrated into the text book curriculum or through supplementary reading material?
Safety of Children against Sexual Abuse
- Does the school have a grievance committee on Child Sexual Abuse (CSA)?
- All teaching, non-teaching, contractual and other staff is sensitized on the CSA committee and child laws.
- All teaching and non-teaching staff is specifically trained to be alert to signs and indicators of child abuse
- Are parents and students sensitized from time to time on the Child Protection Policy/Guidelines/child laws and reporting Mechanisms?
- Is there a recruitment and verification protocol and procedure in place for teaching, non-teaching, contractual, voluntary and other staff, before they are allowed to work with the children?
- Is there a clearly laid out procedure and line of reporting for teachers and other members of the staff to be followed, in the event of a child abused by teaching or non-teaching staff or anyone else connected with the school?
- Does the school undertake on-going training for teaching and key non-teaching personnel on protection of child rights, child safety and child development, child abuse and related issues?
- Is the Child Safety Poster on display in prominent locations of the school?
- Are there books/reading materials on child safety and protection available in the school library and accessed by students and Teachers?
- Does school have a qualified Child Counsellor/Psychologist – part time or full time or on call consultant one can access when there is a requirement related to mental health related emergency?
- Are children regularly oriented towards good touch and bad touch?
- Are children made aware regarding preventive steps to be taken w.r.t Child Sexual Abuse?
- Does the school conduct awareness programs to sensitise students on harms of substance abuse, mutual and peer respect, gender sensitivity, social responsibility; and consequences of behaviour or action, including penalisation under law such as JJ Act, 2015 and POCSO Act, 2012?
- Does the school has Children’s Forums or Clubs that promote children’s participation and provides platform for them to discuss and share with the teachers and those in authority on safety, protection and other relevant issues?
Section III : Social and Emotional Safety
- Are children given guidance and trained on adequate age appropriate social skills in managing emotions and building healthy peer relationships?
- Is there a Anti Bullying Committee in School?
- Are children aware of anti-bullying committee (ABC)
- Through conducting sessions on life skills, are students taught coping skills to manage fear, anger and stress and prevent abuse on self or others to build self-esteem and confidence among students?
- Are all types of bullying is discouraged and prohibited in the school premises students are asked to refrain from bullying, ragging, criticism, rude language, and malicious gossiping?
Section IV : Cyber Safety
- Is access to computer rooms and use of electronic and technological devices by students supervised by teachers? 160. Are Social Networking sites blocked in the school computers?
- Are students regularly educated on safe usage of technology and how to be responsible digital citizen – sensible use of mobiles, sms, mms, internet, mail or net chats, effect of plagiarism and how to avoid risky behaviour?
- Are students educated to understand their responsibilities, the consequences under the laws on cyber misuse, bullying, harassment etc,?
- Are School Authority and children oriented on procedures to be followed and steps prescribed within the legal frame work in the event of cyber abuse or crime – legal recourse and information about Cyber Crime Department in the Police?
- Are cyber-crimes handled with sensitivity and confidentiality?
First Aid Kit in school
All schools should be equipped with the First Aid Kit containing:
- Roller Bandage
- Gauze Pad
- Lotion Chlorhexidine (Savlon)
- Lotion Povidone-Iodine (BETADINE)
- Framycetin Sulpahte (SOFRAMYCIN)
- Kidney Tray
- Eye Pad
- Tape Adhesive
- Band Aid
- Ice Bag Sample
- Hot Water Bottle
Source : NCPCR Manual on safety and security of children in Schools