Published: 04th April 2022
How safe are schools, hostels? Questions raised after sexually assaulted Class X student dies by suicide in Odisha
"Counselling programmes covering safety and security, health, hygiene and similar issues are being held for girl students," said Munmun Mohapatra, District Project Officer for Life Skill Education
On Friday, April 1, a Class X student ended her life in Odisha after allegedly being sexually assaulted by the headmaster. The point to note is that a few such sporadic cases have been reported while one needs to remember that many more cases might actually be going unreported.
The 16-year-old jumped to her death from the two-storey hostel building of Patuadihi Panchayat High School in Lefripada block. This was after allegedly being sexually abused by the headmaster. Followed by this, other students mustered the courage to talk about the abusive behaviour of the headmaster who has been accused, 54-year-old Shyam Sundar Patel.
It may be recalled that, in the past year, in separate cases, two headmasters of schools have been booked for sexually abusing girl students. This happened in blocks Kuanrmunda and Rajgangpur. If we look at the last six to eight years, as many as three teachers from government schools in Lefripada, Bargaon and Lahunipada blocks in the district were forwarded to the court over charges which were similar.
Sundargarh district has 514 hostels of the SC & ST department and 69 hostels of the School & Mass Education department, with 48,906 students. Of these, 50 per cent are girls aged six to 16 years. Apart from this, there are two Anwesha hostels, then there are over two dozen hostels of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas, Eklavya Residential Model Schools and Odisha Adarsha Vidyalayas.
It is from rural and poor socio-economic backgrounds that most of these students in these schools hail. And it is the allegation of the locals that in the past, if incidents of sexual abuse had prompted fast and stringent action, these incidents wouldn't touch the numbers they have today. But alas, such cases continue to happen and many more go unreported because the victim is scarred and unable to speak up about what happened to them.
District Project Officer for Life Skill Education under the ST & SC department, Munmun Mohapatra, said rigorous counselling programmes covering safety and security, health, hygiene and similar issues are being held for girl students. School authorities are also getting regularly educated on the relevant issues.
Meanwhile, Patel, the accused headmaster, was produced in court under sections 305 of IPC and 10 of the POCSO Act.
Sundargarh SP Sagarika Nath said the investigation is underway and further sections may be added during the filing of the charge sheet based on findings.