Surveillance can work only when grown-ups use the ‘gaze’ responsibly, writes Raj Singhal
The jury is out on whether CCTV cameras are important in classrooms or not. The recent Delhi cabinet nod approving the installation of CCTV cameras in government schools and the subsequent quashing of the PIL against the Delhi Government’s proposal to install over 1.4 lakh CCTV cameras inside the classrooms of the schools, by the Delhi High Court are landmark events that will go a long way in setting a worthy precedent.
While privacy is an important concern when it comes to children, it really needs to be balanced with safety, an area that has so far been sadly compromised. A spate of cases in the recent past have thrown the spotlight on the fact that the school space which is considered to be a safe haven for children does not always turn out to be necessarily so when a slew of safety measures aren’t followed. Both as parents and school administrators we have followed the coverage of many such cases in media which have left us wondering about the security of our children as we send them off to school everyday in the hope of procuring a brighter future for them. Yet sometimes, these very institutions that are supposed to be the guardians of their future fail to protect them and they are robbed of their present.
CCTV cameras are one way to ensure that there is constant surveillance and that children are always within earshot of responsible adults (even if digitally). With growing cases of sexual misconduct, bullying and more, this certainly is the need of the hour, not only so that you can monitor the child’s safety but also so that perpetrators of such heinous crimes are fearful of committing any wrong action knowing that their moves are being watched.
Also, in Government schools or even in some private ones, where issues have been raised on teacher absenteeism, poor quality of teaching and more, CCTV cameras can come in handy as they can help one monitor the quality of education being imparted.
Of course what is required is that the footage be password protected and be available only to a select few and not to any strangers lest the security of children is compromised at any stage. In fact as parents, we would well be within our rights to opt for schools that have these provisions, where footage is available not just on demand but which provide access to live feed.
A lot of the success of the installation of CCTV cameras will however still depend on the attitude adopted by both school authorities and parents. They need to view the provision as a safety mechanism for their child and not turn it into monitoring mechanism where the child feels that every move of his/ her is being watched. This technology should not turn one into a helicopter parent where they view each and every move of the child. It goes without saying that such actions will smother the child and not allow him or her to develop independently to the full potential.
As long as all of us understand that the idea of employing technology is clearly not to detract from the carefree attitude of childhood but just to offer safety which is every child’s right, there is no way we can go wrong.
The writer is CEO and co-founder of Footprints Childcare, an IIT-IIM alumni founded national chain of progressive preschools and daycares