Principle 9 of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child (1959), ratified by most nations, states, “The child shall be protected against all forms of neglect, cruelty and exploitation.” As such, countries that have ratified this declaration have legislated upon it. Physical, mental and emotional safety of the children is a mindset that results in legislation, enforced, in letter and spirit, without exception.
As an internationally trained and experienced teacher, getting my credentials accepted, at par with the mandatory Canadian standards, was a tedious and time-consuming process. One of the many documents that I had to arrange for was a Letter in Good Standing from all the schools in all the countries where I had previously worked. This was to ensure that there was never any disciplinary action taken against me as a teacher, or that I did not have a record of cruelty to children, apathy or even worse, of child molestation. When I started working with schools in Canada, I had to undergo a battery of clearances- the most important being the police and communicable diseases clearance. These were mandatory for anyone working with vulnerable sections of the society like children, disabled, and elderly; as these are positions of trust, and upholding fragile trust is very important. As a professional, these were irksome as they involved both time and money and, as I was not used to the increased level of scrutiny, challenged to my sense of integrity and morality. As a parent, I am glad that they were built into the pre-screening process of hiring professionals who would interact with children. What a commendable practice! This is not to say that there are no incidents of abuse, but their probability has been minimised, as much as possible by legislation and enforcement. For schools and other such organisations it is a non-negotiable and compliance with the legislation is explicit.
As a member of IBNA (International Baccalaureate North America) and its local arm IBSO (International Baccalaureate Schools of Ontario), I recently received a communiqué, informing me about further proactive screening of education professionals. This one in particular pertains to site visitors, consultants, examination site inspectors, onsite workshop leaders and all those who work on assignments within schools, who are now required to have national fingerprint background check. This additional requirement is reflective of the emphasis laid by IBNA on safety in schools and the importance of keeping children out of the reach of undesirables.
It is not enough to render lip service to vulnerabilities of children, regulatory bodies need to walk the talk. And I am privileged to be a part of this walk!