By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
With the mounting complaints of sexual harassment and other forms of abuse and violence reportedly committed by faculty and school personnel against their students, a child rights group on Tuesday urged both public and private schools under the supervision and monitoring of the Department of Education (DepEd) to strengthen protection and support to their learners.
Save the Children Philippines (SCP) expressed support to the students’ call for justice from their “harrowing experiences” of sexual abuse and violence allegedly committed by faculty and school personnel. “It is the duty of the DepEd to ensure all schools are conducive to the safe learning of children,” said SCP Chief Executive Officer Atty. Alberto Muyot.
Muyot, a former Undersecretary of the DepEd, said schools are “mandated to effectively adopt and implement their respective child protection policies to protect children and youth in school from all forms of abuse, violence, exploitation, discrimination, and bullying.”
Citing DepEd order No. 40 s. of 2012 also known as “DepEd Child Protection Policy,” Muyot noted that all schools, both public and private, are mandated to develop a policy and guidelines to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury and abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment and exploitation, including sexual abuse in accordance to the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Muyot, who is also the author of the said DepEd Order, explained that Child Protection Policy should “also integrate the right of the child to education and achieve the right progressively, and on the basis of equal opportunity.”
Muyot noted that schools should strengthen their Child Protection Policy to ensure regular attendance of students and reduce dropout rates. “Students’ right to participation and to be heard appropriately, and be listened to by school authorities must be fulfilled at all times,” he explained.
The Child Protection Policy, Muyot added, must be known by all school personnel, faculty and students through regular seminars and training. The Child Protection Policy should also be highlighted in students’ handbook.
“To encourage more students to speak up on cases of abuse and violence, school discipline must be administered in a manner consistent with the child’s human dignity, and in conformity with the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Muyot added.
SCP noted that it continues to continues to partner with the DepEd and local communities to increase awareness on children’s rights to access health and nutrition, education and protection from all forms of abuse and violence.
The child rights group also conducts Positive Discipline sessions for teachers, parents and community leaders by highlighting children’s rights and the way they should be treated in the home settings, community and schools.
Likewise, SCP expressed serious concerns on the rising cases of sexual harassment, violence against students of private colleges now being aired through social media platforms which opened a floodgate of similar complaints from other schools.
“We are concerned that the cases posted in social media only show the tip of the iceberg as deprived and marginalized students may not have the voice and the platforms to express similar complaints,” Muyot ended.