How to Promote Child Protection and Safety

by Margarita Matienzo Boy

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the respiratory health of children is not the only safety concern. Children have to be protected as well against all forms of violence, whether physical, emotional, or mental. They also need to be safe from maltreatment and exploitation, including sexual abuse.

Sadly, during the pandemic, the Department of Education noted a rise in reports of sexual abuse and exploitation of children, often facilitated by the Internet, social media, and online tools. There are increasing reports of individuals selling lewd photos and videos to raise funds for remote learning expenses such as digital devices or mobile load. 

Also, because many learners are staying home, there are also cases of domestic abuse and emotional violence by adults.

As teachers and education stakeholders, what can we do to safeguard the welfare of our students?

I believe we need to strengthen our education campaign regarding child protection.

It bears noting that in 2012, DepEd already released its policies and guidelines on protecting children from abuse, violence, exploitation, discrimination, bullying, and other forms of abuse.

These policies and guidelines are found in DepEd Order No. 40, s. 2012, otherwise known as the DepEd Child Protection Policy.

The same is based on principles elucidated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child which not only aims to protect against abuse but also safeguard the right to learning and equal opportunity.

According to the DepEd Child Protection Policy, "the best interest of the child shall be the paramount consideration in all decisions and actions involving children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities, and legislative bodies."

Towards this end, it adopts a policy to provide special protection to children who are gravely threatened or endangered by circumstances which affect their normal development and over which they have no control.

DepEd has zero tolerance for any act of child abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination, bullying and other forms of abuse.

Even amid the pandemic, there should be strong and proactive information dissemination programs and activities on child protection.

If we are to prevent the number of cases of abuse from rising, or even to curb the cases, this area should not be neglected, even as we are caught up in the hustle of implementing DepEd’s learning continuity plan.

Abuses, DepEd says, often arise in difficult situations, and most certainly the pandemic has been one of the most challenging situations of our time.

Education stakeholders, especially the teachers, parents, and guardians, must be reminded of their special parental authority and responsibility over the child, while under their supervision or custody.
On the other hand, learners should be empowered to participate in the formulation and implementation of policies.

In terms of disciplinary action and sanctions, these should be made after thorough investigation and verification of details.

Further, interventions as well as periodic assessments or evaluations must be made to check whether the child protection is indeed successful.

We must remember that we can only maximize learning opportunities if our students feel that they are safe and comfortable.

Protecting them not only against threats to their physical health but also to their mental and emotional disposition will help promote maximum learning and development.