Bhubaneswar, July 19 (LocalWire): Close on the heels of the news about the pregnancy of a tribal girl in a Bhubaneswar-based state-run hostel, the pregnancy of an inmate at a residential school hostel in Kandhamal district has triggered a fresh row over the safety of girl child in government-run educational institutions.
In the latest case of sexual exploitation of minors, a 13-year-old tribal girl, a hostel inmate of Balighar Residential School in Baliguda block has been found positive in the pregnancy test.
Acting on the first information report (FIR) lodged by the school headmaster, the police have taken into custody a minor boy on charges of sexual assault on the minor girl.
Police are investigating whether the victim was sexually abused at the hostel premises or outside, sources said.
Earlier a 12-year old girl staying at a hostel for tribal girls in Daringibadi block of Kandhamal district had given birth to a child on 12 January this year, sparking off a statewide uproar.
Taking serious note of the situation, the district administration has ordered a probe into it.
Unfortunately, despite all efforts minor motherhood and pregnancy of girls in tribal residential schools have emerged as an exceedingly disturbing trend in the state, with questions being raised about the safety of girls staying in these government-run institutions.
Cases of sexual exploitation of girl children in residential school hostels have come to the fore from across the state on several occasions. The state government had earlier issued direction to ensure strict implementation of guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Guidelines and SOP on safety and security of boarders, safe cooking and serving, the food menu chart along with the code of conduct and duties of the each staff were circulated to school authorities. But its implementation seems to have remained on paper only.
The state has reported at least seven cases of pregnancy from residential schools meant exclusively for girls during the past four years.
The child rights activists are of the view that insecure environs in the hostel have made the girl child vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
In majority of 1,200 functional residential schools for scheduled caste and scheduled tribe children, the security setup is conspicuous by its absence and at least two cases of miscreants sneaking into hostels in the night have been reported this year.
“Many of these institutions also lack toilets forcing the inmates to defecate in the open outside the school campus. As a result, the children are exposed to attack by the miscreants,” rights activist Namrata Chadha said.
“The state had also reported the case of a government-run residential school at Gadiapada in Kadhamal district where over hundred girl students had to travel barefoot for nearly two kilometers everyday along the treacherous forest hilly terrains, to attend the nature’s call,” she said, adding that the fate of several of these institutions remain the same.