CHENNAI: The department of school education, Government of Tamil Nadu along with UNESCO, New Delhi launched a publication titled 'Be a buddy, not a bully' - a book stressing the need to provide an inclusive environment in schools for sexual minorities and to establish strong anti-bullying policies.
The report was based on a joint study conducted by Sahodaran and UNESCO. The dissemination of the study was conducted Tuesday at Anna Centenary Library hall, Chennai at 11 am in the presence of K.A.Sengottaiyan, minister of school education, Mr. Pradeep Reddy, IAS Principal secretary to government of Tamil Nadu and Mr.Eric Falt, director and UNESCO Representative to India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Addressing the media, TN education minister said, "Education is a fundamental right of an individual and a top priority for my department. I am pleased with the pioneering research done by UNESCO, New Delhi and committed to the promotion of supportive learning environments for every student in Tamil Nadu, so that they may achieve great success." He also said school students will be given sexual health education once a week and noted that admissions have improved by almost 2 lakh students this year.
Talking about the importance of an inclusive environment in schools Mr. Pradeep Yadav said, "Safe and inclusive schools are a necessary first step for the academic and personal welfare of students. In the spirit of ensuring 'quality education for all', the government of Tamil Nadu looks forward to work with UNESCO and incorporate recommendations into the department's policies and programmes. We will develop a framework and guidelines, in line with the recently released draft national education policy, to ensure school safety and security and to protect the rights of child and adolescent education."
Appreciating the national education policy and its focus to prevent gender-based violence, Mr. Eric Falt said," this report serves as a very important advocacy tool to bring about tangible change, beginning with a change in the mindset of students, teachers and administrators."The study found that a large number of students face bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. In some cases the bullying is so severe that it forces students to discontinue their education, the study reported.
"We earlier planned to conduct the study in Chennai alone. On the advice of dr. K.Senthil Raj, Project director, TNSAC the study was conducted throughout the state following which IAS secretaries issued a circular to all the government schools asking them to encourage students belonging to sexual minorities and stress on anti-bullying in the morning prayer . ", says Jaya, General Manager, Sahodaran.
"We hope the publication of this report brings about better gender sensitisation and provides a healthy, inclusive environment for all sexual minority children. We also hope more transgender teachers are employed in schools", says Jaya adding that they have submitted a written petition to the education minister regarding this. Establishing strong anti-bullying policies and redressal mechanisms, providing gender sensitisation training for teachers and school management and developing a curriculum including sexual health education are some of the recommendations of this report.