The recent news of a dance teacher having allegedly sexually abused a male member of his troop sent shock waves in the Sri Lanka society. Alarming facts regarding this incident are that this male member of the troop being a 17-year-old boy and the modus operandi of the dance teacher to lure the boy being the offering of a drug laced soft drink.
Are our children safe in the hands of teachers who teach them extra-curricular activities like dancing or for that matter any subject? Not very long ago there was a news item which revealed how a set designer working for a media network, who was also engaged in tuition, abused at least three children; all under the age of 16 years.
How efficient is the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) in Sir Lanka? What are its plans to safeguard children when they are outside their secure ‘homes’? These are vital questions that parents of abused children raise frequently.
But over the years we’ve been talking about the problem rather than the solution.
For the record the NCPA formulated Child Protection Policy was approved by the Cabinet only as late as 2019.
Children abused by those coming within the circle of education is a trend that set in the past and has remained much the same. Much of these incidents of abuse featured teachers or tuition masters. The predators were those from the system or close associates of children themselves!
Things can turn disastrous when parents are constantly unavailable for their children. This happens in families where both parents have to work to keep the family fires burning. When children encountering problems don’t have the option to turn to their parents they seek that outsider who is willing to offer a shoulder to lean on.
At present child abuse cases are on the rise. For the record as many as 2845 child abuse cases were reported for last year (2019). The highest number of child abuse cases reported in Sri Lanka between 2011 and 2019 was in 2013 where the figure read 11,489. A large number of child abuse cases going unreported is shocking in itself. This is probably because of the stigma associated with incidents where the parents report abuse incidents.
Experts working to present child abuse incidents opine that one of the reasons that child abuse is on the rise is because ‘minors’ are ignorant about the subject of child abuse.
Many elders promote the idea of providing sex education to children at an early age to prevent kids from falling prey to ‘predators’.
Media institutes report on incidents where children are sexually abused, but the same enthusiasm is not shown by them when it comes to educating children of lurking dangers; especially during times when abuse cases are low.
Many years ago the trend was to kidnap children and demand ransom. As a result many children paid with their lives; this was despite parents finding the money to pay the perpetrators.
Television stations are so eager to show visuals of homes where parents grieve for the children who are abused in this manner. Before the television took on this role we did hear of such stories over the radio which were regarding child disappearances, killings and incidents of rape of minors.
It is via the radio that we also heard that famous song by Anton Jones where the artiste sings about ‘Podi Saman Kumara’; who according to the lyrics was murdered after those who kidnapped him demanded a ransom of rupees one lakh fifty thousand from the boy’s parents.
That song carried a strong message to parents to protect their children. The song at the start and also at the end mentions the fact that Gautama Buddha made three visits to Sri Lanka. It seems timely that the Prime Minister of the country at this juncture wants ‘Sunday School’ education made compulsory to create a society with high moral values. Children would be safe if adults can create such a society very soon.