‘Pre-primary children require Extra Care’

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Child safety is the priority and concern in schools today. Our society is changing everyday and the importance towards child safety is intense. Babitha Viswanath, Principal, Royale Concorde Interantional School Sarjapura and Academic Experts Consultancy, answers some key questions related to handling pre-primary school children.

What are the general safety issues to be kept in mind while handling pre-primary children in the school environment? Which are the priorities?

Pre-primary children are at their tender age where they require an extra care and nurturing from the society they live in. Handling them in school needs at most care and consciousness. The general issues to be kept in mind while we deal with pre-primary children are the care on hygiene as they are at this vulnerable age where they are still building their immunity. Cutting nails, washing hands is practiced regularly but picking their nose, drooling, sneezing and coughing are daily routine for which conscious efforts are to be taken.

First aids boxes and hands on safety techniques to be trained to kindergarten teachers as they are the immediate first contact of the child and they need to be equipped with first aid knowledge. Environment setup should be child friendly. Furniture and all equipments in the classroom should have curved corners. It should be made of soft fibre. Mont.Lab practices should be demonstrated in small groups. Always have assistant teachers to reinforce the Mont.Lab discipline and rules.

Habits cultivated in young children stand a long way. Train and continuously remind the children to walk in a line slowly. For movements up and down they need to be taught to hold the railing. First Point Contact details should be clearly stated on emergency basis for the school by the parents. Campus Tour Activity is a very important activity to keep our little pre-primary children aware of their own school, in times of need where they need to go, who to approach if there is a situation of need.

Awareness of school campus and the various rooms they interact with is a must to know and exercise, this builds confidence to the children. Special personal information of the children needs to be collected; teacher and parents need to fill in the special personal information form to keep the teacher and the school informed about the child’s health or any other sensitivity. It could be allergies on food or medicine, etc.

When dealing with little pre-primary children, all factors pertaining to safety is considered as priority. Any physical and emotional damages in this tender age can disturb the child to a great extend, so we shall state all are priorities. Fire drill practices should be taught to the children and staff to react aptly in case of an emergency.

There is a high possibility of the children in this age group becoming victims to infections. What precautions and care the school and teachers should take?

A young child’s immune system hasn’t been exposed to many infections, so they are far more prone to illnesses than older kids and adults, who have built up immunity to many germs. When we talk about ‘being victims to infections’ we need to understand the phrase rightly if a child has already been infected, this is our very first priority. If the children in this age group are unwell, do keep them at home and treat them for the infection. School advises the parents to take this first step for protecting other children from getting infected. This precaution step should be exercised by all schools strictly. School can conduct regular free health camps in their campus.

There are many general precautions that need to be ensured like keeping the washroom clean, introducing clean habits and encouraging children to follow some hygiene rules, making children understand and teach them the basic etiquettes of cleanliness through interesting videos or cartoon forms. Children should be pinned with a napkin all time. Teachers should be trained to cultivate a habit to ask the children in the morning how they feel or maintain a feeling chart in class or interact it in the circle time.

Water supply units in school need to be regularly checked, cleaned and dry periodically. Every school should maintain a sickbay to isolate and take care of any child who is not keeping well in the school. The sickbay should be equipped with the first aid requirement and bed. All teachers need to be in a nature to hear out the child and to be patience to listen the queries of the child and to be approachable to this age of children helps a long way.

As the children belonging to this age group are likely to be affected by even mild emotional imbalances in the environment, what safety precautions should the school take to avoid such things?

Children are very sensitive and vulnerable at this stage. Their emotions and the world around them must always be healthy and positive at all time. This helps children to gain confidence and grow into a unique personality. As we all know this factor that the environment contributes a lot in the development of the child’s personality and nature, children spend most of their time in the school, so that the school and staff need to be trained and periodically checked on their language and their body language as it does send signals to the children and affect their emotions.

Teachers need to be patient and always have a listening ear to the children. Maintain a friendly relationship with their children. Teachers and support staffers need to understand that the children of this age should be treated with at most respect and talk to them like an adult to make them understand or tell a story in the forms of puppet/favourite character to reflect the message. There can be few hand signals that reinforce the feeling or state of mind of the child periodically where the teacher ask their children how do you feel now. So, they could thumb up or down to express their thought. Then the teacher can easily identify the concern.

A buddy system also works with little children in which the ‘buddy’ can express for their friend. A personal book record can be maintained to keep a close track of students in class on their behaviour, are they get aggressive, quiet, bubbly and so on, so when there is a change in regular nature it can be immediately spotted. When students enter in the reception or any other area, support staff can be a silent watcher to discipline and make sure they walk well without indulging into other small hands on issues.

School can employ a school counselor to assist in case of special behaviour issues. This will help in streamlining the behaviour issues and maintain peaceful emotion in class. Classroom should be equipped with CCTV cameras to check on interactions in the class periodically. In school at all times children need to be escorted by the teachers. There are many other precautions and procedures that a school can make a child feel safe is by having strict procedures of pick and drop, maintaining register and issuing pick and drop cards to the parents/guidance, etc.

Reinforcing parents to pick the children on time as it causes a emotional imbalance to at the time of dispersal. Teacher and parents must send the child to school and back home with happy state of mind to feel welcomed next day. Never should a teacher state warning commands or anything unpleasant to the child for the next day of school.

Incidents of kidnapping children in this age group are higher compared to other age groups. What security precautions should the school take to ensure safety?

Of course, the incidents of kidnapping and molesting kindergarten school children are found higher than any other age group. Children in this age group are vulnerable and unaware of the consequences. Precautions a school must take to ensure their children are safe include instilling certain strict procedures which should be followed both by parent and school staff. A meeting should be conducted with the parent if required to set things in place. Pick up cards and ID cards should be compulsory.

For other staff, schools need to regularly conduct meeting, track down reporting and revising responsibilities to other staff (drivers, assistance, housekeeping and others) on childcare and child safety measures. While recruiting staff thoroughly check and tracking on the previous work place along with police clearance. During special occasion clear bifurcation with public and students must be done, all staff and teachers must be on duty supervising the students.

Let us ground the general safety issues by walking through the areas in a school environment.

Entrance gate: ID cards of all students can be chipped to mark the attendance as they enter the campus. An automatic alertness twits to the parents as well.

Reception: CCTV camera must be placed in such a way that it is hidden to the view of other. The camera should be instilled well in all areas of the campus where it cannot be manipulated or dysfunction.

Classroom, play area, splash pool, sand pit and restroom: Students should be sent in pairs and there should always be a female support or teacher on duty.

Transport: Ensure GPS system is installed in school buses and a supervisor views through the recording once in 10 days at least. A teacher should be kept in-charge of each bus, where she travels along with the students back home. She should be the last person to drop. Parents must be directed to be in the spot of pick up and drop on time. Maintain pick up register for dispersal of students. A list for parents should be pasted in the bus for emergency. Driver must be given cell phone to access for emergency.

At any point, parents should not allow other parents or neighbours to pick their child up and school strictly should not entertain such practices.

What do you think is the role of parents in facilitating a safe environment to pre-primary children?

Parents play a vital role in facilitating a safe environment to children in this age group in schools. They need to first understand and observe their children well, and intimate to the teacher on the whereabouts of their child, for example: food allergies, habits, toilet issues, way of expression, etc. The child should be given a good understanding about school, they should trust and respect their teachers, follow the rules and regulations set by the school.

Good parents ensure they keep in contact timely with the school, pick and drop their children on time at their stops and they involve aptly and actively in parent-teacher meeting and school associations. Good parents give respect to the teachers and build a bonding and trust between teachers and school kids, stating their children to get help from teacher who will surely help them in case of any issue.

Educate the children on basic good touch and bad touch to their children. Parents should make their children understand not to take any offering of food or any such things from strangers. Voluntary for occasions and programs to be a helping hand controlling the crowd and ensuring children are safe. Having a broader and right mindset as all our children and one should take the responsibilities of all when and not just their child alone. School is a huge responsibility with various diversities in it. It requires three most important elements to work hand-in-hand—the school, the teachers and the parents—to ensure smooth running and a safe environment.

What suggestions would you give to ensure that these students do not suffer any physical injury in the school premises while they are playing?

Being a sports person I’m sorry to mention I feel children of today play more in devices than on playgrounds. It is a sorry state but thank god in school we still have the physical education going strong. It is very important for children to play, that too outdoor. This will make them strong and grow well. Children in this age group are scaffold everywhere and every time. Schools have indoor and outdoor games, schools take a lot of precautions to keep children safe at all times.

Kindergarten children’s indoor play areas should have flooring with soft mats which can safeguard the children while they run, jump, skip or even fall. The walls can be cushioned to the height of three feet. Movable fencing to restrict them from running off to far area and to manage them better, it’s always advisable to take the little kids out to play when the sun is not too high and they should wear hats if required.

Children in pre-primary group play with child-friendly play items which are made of fibre or plastic that shouldn’t bring any physical harm to them. The school must ensure that no sharp objects and sharp surface is exposed to the contact of children. The area where kindergarten children play should be a sand pit, free play indoor zone and outdoor play area.

The school should also ensure that the children in all time are escorted by the teacher and a support staff. The children need to be educated and trained to handle play area and they should be reminded regularly on the rules and instructions for playing outdoors.

Babitha Viswanath is principal at Royale Concorde International School, Bengaluru. Ensuring to impart quality education through individualised attention and integrate technology to make learning interesting and enjoyable, Royale Concorde International School, nurtures young minds for an all-round development with special focus on academics.