Overall ‘Safety and Security’ in a schools
Managing Trustee, The Titan School, Hosur, Tamil Nadu
Normally, we use the words ‘safe’ and ‘secure’ together. But I believe they have different connotations. Only when we are secure can we feel safe. In other words, when a school has a comprehensive security policy that is properly implemented and followed rigorously, it can be considered safe.
Gone are the days when the classrooms had nothing but a blackboard, a cupboard, a table and some chairs and desks. For me, safety starts from the perimeter, goes to the structure, then the classrooms and laboratories, the front office, the children and staff, the transport and other external environment. We cannot forget softer issues like data protection using various antivirus, intrusion protection and other technologies.
First and foremost, every school should have proper perimeter security. It looks obvious, but every effort should be made to ensure that compound walls are of the required height, there are proper procedures for locking and unlocking the school and the rooms, and availability of trained security personnel all the time. In addition, we must install a number of cameras in and around the school, in the corridors and at the gate to ensure that monitoring of children alighting and boarding the school transport is carried out.
It is not sufficient to install the cameras. It is doubly important to ensure that they are working all the time. We have established processes for managing these cameras. A responsible person from the school goes through all the camera feeds of the previous 24 hours. Exceptional events are categorised into A, B and C based on the severity of the issue. An event A will immediately require the attention of the highest authorities including the principal for necessary action. We also preserve the camera feeds for six months so that in case any reference is needed in future it is possible.
Periodic review of the security processes and training of the security personnel is absolutely essential. It is always a good idea to illuminate the perimeter at night. In our school, even the corridors are illuminated at night. Many may believe, focusing to such an extent may not be necessary but we believe that we should be ahead of any un-foretold event happening as otherwise it will be like locking the gate after the sheep have left.
Office and classroom security
Today, offices are digital. We have computers and systems that take not only take care of front office work but also most of the back end and academic processes. We have installed grilled windows and additional steel door at our office. Equally important is our computer centre where we periodically replace our desktops with the latest models and also have the latest servers. The computer room needs to be kept under optimum temperature. A hooter in the computer room will indicate to the security in case of a fire alarm. Computer rooms have multiple exits and all of them are properly closed and locked after school hours.
Classrooms and laboratories
We have cameras in all classrooms that are kept on 24 hours. Every class room has HD TVs/display units and computers. Some schools also have white boards. The cameras are more of deterrents against misuse both during and after school hours.
Safety of children is of utmost importance to any school. The school is responsible for safety from the time the child alights in front of the school till it boards the transport in the evening. The role of the security is very important here as they have to ensure that the transporter leaves the transport in front of the school in an orderly manner and children board the transport properly in the evening. If the school provides transport, then the responsibility extends to picking them from their residence, their transport to the school and their return to their residence in the evening. Well defined processes ensure periodic check on the drivers and their assistants, availability of school person to accompany the children where necessary and compliance with the orders dictated by the local police.
Children’s safety within the school premises is also very important. At an early age, the children should be taught ‘rights and wrongs’. All the staff must be compulsorily trained on POSCO act and ayahs or sisters have to be told to keep a strict watch on the going on. Our school has a written down policy on sexual harassment and have a committee as laid down by law to address issues that may arise. We continuously ensure that reviews are carried out and training is undertaken seriously.
Safety of school structure
It is important to realise that the school buildings also age. Like the old proverb, ‘a stitch in time, saves nine’, it is important to address civil, electrical, plumbing and carpentry issues as they arise. We have a two-prone approach. Electrical and plumbing issues are addressed immediately, while civil issues are addressed once a year unless there is a need for emergency repair. As a part of annual planning, complete inspection of the school premises is undertaken. Repairs to tables, chairs, windows, water seepage, cracks on the wall and any other area for repairs are identified. Major repairs are budgeted and carried out during school vacation.
Security of digital data is very important. The school should have a process for backup and restoration of data. Processes for both online and offline backups should be established and followed rigorously. The data and original software should be kept in fire proof devises or at an off location. Periodic restoration of data will confirm the validity of the backups. There should also be a policy for deletion of old data.
From an early stage, the need to protect the environment should be inculcated in all the children. Less usage of plastic, water conservation, pollution control and use of green technologies should be informed to all the children. In our school, we have taken several measures to create awareness among children about the need to protect the environment. We have set up:
- Compost pit to collect fallen leaves and convert them into organic manure
- Drip irrigation for all the plants to conserve water.
- Bio gas plant that converts leftover food from children into fuel for the pantry and the sludge is used as manure.
- Rain water harvesting.
- Our children carry out ‘Echo Ganesha’ and ‘No Crackers Campaign’ in the community during festivals.
Safety is such an important subject that there is no end to working on improving the related processes. Also newer technologies are becoming available and there are opportunities for continuously improving the safety of the schools. Of late, schools are coming to limelight even in case of small infringements and therefore, it is necessary for school managements to be proactive to ensure that a safe environment is created and maintained.
N Kailasanathan is Managing Trustee of The Titan School in Hosur, Tamil Nadu. He has more than four decades of corporate experience having worked extensively in IT, business excellence and knowledge management, ethics and corporate social responsibility. Passionate about process improvement and having been worked extensively with the principal and teachers in improving both academic and non-academic processes in The Titan School, Kailasanathan has been providing guidance, giving direction and devising strategies in the school for more than a decade.