Safety at school is a top concern for children in India: ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey finds out

The ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey, that was released on February 8, 2017, captures children’s views on education and safety at school, in both developed and developing countries. The findings revealed that nearly one in three children in India have concerns about their safety at school.

The seventh annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey was undertaken by the ChildFund Alliance in 2016. The survey was conducted in 41 countries with children aged 10 to 12. This included 31 developing nations in Africa, Asia and the Americas as well as 10 developed countries. The participating countries included India, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Zambia amongst others. A total of 6,226 children were surveyed – 3,658 children in developing countries and 2,568 children in developed nations.

Key findings at a glance

• Children almost universally said education is important to them (98%).
• One in three children globally (31%) said their school is not always a safe place. In India 28% felt unsafe or safe only sometimes.
• Almost two-thirds of children in developed countries (64%) said education is important ‘because it will allow me to get a good job when I grow up’ – compared to 40% of children in developing countries. 45% of respondents in India said so.
• In developing countries, 20% of children said school was important ‘because having an education will help me care for my parents’, compared to 6% of children in developed countries. In India, this figure was 21%.
• Almost half of children in developed countries (48%) said what they love most about school is ‘being with friends’, while the top response from children in developing countries (51%) was ‘learning new things’.
• Children in India were equally as concerned as their peers in developing countries about providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25%).

While children almost universally agree that education is important, a third of respondents in India (28%) said their school is only ‘sometimes’ safe (in line with the global finding of 31%) – citing deficient infrastructure and lack of toilets among their greatest concerns. Besides boundary walls, first aid facilities and toilets, children also spoke of corporal punishment and bullying, among their main concerns.

In developing countries, 21% of children said being safe at school means school buildings and facilities which are clean, safe and in good repair – with this response being highest amongst children surveyed in India (58%), Ethiopia (55%) and Bangladesh (54%).

Commenting on the results, Anne Lynam Goddard, President and CEO of ChildFund International, said, “The ‘Small Voices, Big Dreams’ survey is a part of our constant endeavour to understand the issues which matter to young minds and also gauge the areas of improvement from various authorities. The survey reveals that many children are concerned about their personal safety at school which will prove to be an impediment in their overall development and growth. School should be an institution of constant learning and development without children having to worry about safety at their learning premises. ChildFund is committed to doing all we can to provide children around the world with a safe and quality education.”

In India, children defined safety at school as having a clean and safe building (58%), having proper preventive security measures in place (46%) – ranging from ‘out of bound’ areas, to protection from strangers, to supervision by teachers; while 23% of children described feeling safe as not being the target of physical or emotional abuse or violence, with many children referring to corporal punishment and ‘no bullying’.

Neelam Makhijani, National Director of ChildFund India, said, “This survey tells us that children in India are passionate about bringing in a more interactive approach to learning and subjects that would prepare them for real life, like technology. But it is alarming to know that safety in their institutions is a grey area. We can’t lose sight of the fact that every child has the right to learn in a safe environment and a collective intervention is our moral responsibility. We want to promote children’s participation in decision-making and our Child-Friendly Accountability framework is a step in this direction.”

According to the survey, children also have many ideas about how they would improve the education system in their country if they were in charge. In case of children in developing countries, their first priority would be building and improving school infrastructure (56%), followed by providing students with uniforms, books and stationery, and well-equipped classrooms (31%). Children in India are also interested in creating high quality learning environments, modernising class curriculums to widen the range of subjects available, and make learning more interactive and fun by including sports and creative arts, and greater student participation (28%).

Interestingly, children in India were equally concerned as their peers in developing countries about providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25%). More than a quarter of children in developing countries would also improve the quality of teaching through better pay, more staff and required training (27%).

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