“Prachi, I am not happy with what I am hearing from the other teachers,” said Principal Pushplata, looking straight at Prachi over the rim of her spectacles.
“What are you hearing Ma’am?”
“It’s about what you are teaching the kids in your class. Many teachers feel that it is inappropriate content for five-year olds.”
“Are you talking about good and bad touch?”
“That we are already teaching them Prachi. It’s what you are teaching beyond that, that is the cause for concern,” she said pulling off her spectacles and cleaning them.
“With all due respect Ma’am, we are already teaching them about good and bad touch and stranger-danger. Yet so many children are falling prey to sexual predators. These predators are not strangers; they live in their house or visit them and are trusted by the parents. The kids think because they are not strangers and I call them uncle or brother or father I can trust them, that they cannot do wrong,” implored Prachi, sitting at the edge of her chair, eyes gleaming determinedly.
“Prachi this is not part of the curriculum. You cannot teach children this,” Principal said adamantly.
“But Ma’am, the time to teach them – IS NOW! The kids need to be made aware that bad touch can come from people they know well or trust. The distinction, that any touch like caressing the back or hair, touching/kissing on the lips etc., that makes them uncomfortable is ‘bad’, needs to be reinforced. It’s not just about being touched in their private parts!” pleaded Prachi, gesticulating with her hands.
“We are already teaching them about touches and stranger-danger, but at this age we cannot teach them to doubt their uncles, brother or fathers.”
“Yet this is the age children get fondled, molested or raped,” retorted Prachi.
At her tone the Principal straightened in her chair, “If you have something to say, then say it openly.”
Prachi replied hesitatingly, “It’s one of our student’s Ma’am.”
“That’s a serious allegation Prachi.”
“I know. But this happened in their home and I’ve been encouraging the parents to deal with it and seek counselling.”
“I see,” Principal said thoughtfully.
“That’s why you see, it’s imperative to go beyond the swim-suit rule. If we had taught them that being patted on the back or made to sit on a relative’s lap can also be bad touch if it makes you uncomfortable and that you can say ‘NO’, perhaps that child could have been saved. We need to teach them at their level using stories and puppets and other tools. We need to take this issue to the next level,” she said as the words raced out for her mouth.
“What you are asking for will not be easy,” said the Principal wearily.
“I know Ma’am, but anything worthwhile isn’t easy. Let us be the voice of change. Someone has to be the first,” beseeched Prachi.
“This is going to be long and uphill battle. Are you ready for it?”
Prachi nodded emphatically.
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