SAFETY: Parents and communities also play vital role
Schools authorities and parents should monitor the safety of students outside school compounds.
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KUALA LUMPUR: THE safety and security of students should be the priority of schools at all times, and the responsibility should be borne by school authorities, parents and communities, said several parent-teacher associations (PTAs).
The issue of student safety and security comes in the wake of the kidnapping of Mont Kiara International School student Nayati Shamelin Moodliar last week.
The 12-year-old was abducted by two men as he was walking to school at 7.35am on April 27.
His kidnappers released him at the Rawang rest and recreation area in the North-South Expressway on Thursday morning after his family had paid a ransom.
Following the incident, most schools beefed up security and called on parents to be more vigilant to keep their children safe.
SK Bukit Damansara’s PTA initiated a voluntary parent watch group to supervise students outside the school compound in the mornings and afternoons.
Its president, Datuk Rozhan Ghazalli, said the school had always been careful about student safety and security, and continuously reviewed its security measures.
“There is a lockdown for visitors during school hours. No one, not even parents, is allowed into the school without authorisation. We have two guards at any one time at the school and we hope to hire more.”
He said the school was considering installing closed-circuit television cameras on its premises.
Rozhan said the main security risk for students was outside the school compound, especially when they walked home or waited for their transport home.
SMK Seri Hartamas PTA deputy chairman Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim said while the school had imposed tighter security measures on visitors and students on its premises, it had no control over what occurred outside the school compound.
“We can only urge students to be on the lookout for suspicious characters, to be in groups, look out for each other, not to loiter after school and to go directly home.
“The police can only do so much. They may increase patrols, but in the end, there must be a coordinated effort by everyone to ensure our children are safe.”
Azimah, who is also the head of the PTA’s safety and security bureau, said the school had produced and distributed a safety guide to students.
“We advised students to use a whistle to attract attention if the need arose. We also asked parents to drop off their children close to the entrance of the school.”
P.C. Yeoh, a PTA committee member of SMK USJ12 in Subang Jaya, said the school worked with the police to ensure students’ safety.
Yeoh said all school stakeholders in Subang Jaya and USJ should sign up for the SJ alert, a free service that provides information on crimes and emergencies via email, SMS, Facebook and tweets.
These measures echo the call by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for all schools to heighten their security measures and ensure that visitors were monitored and screened.
Muhyiddin, who is also education minister, said although the ministry had issued guidelines on the matter years ago, Nayati’s kidnapping had prompted it to re-look the guidelines.
However, several parents said these safety and security measures were only knee-jerk reactions following child abductions.
Vasantha Kumari, who has four school-going children, said: “We seem to react only when a child is kidnapped or when someone is bullied or beaten up. Schools tighten their security and parents become more vigilant. And then, after some time, security becomes lax.”
She said a national-level initiative, like the Safety House Programme in Australia, should be introduced to help children recognise and avoid unsafe situations on their way to or from school.
The programme is a joint initiative between the police and the community where houses and businesses are selected as safe places for children to seek shelter and safety, if required.
The participating homes display a bright sign to indicate that they are part of the programme and students can knock on these doors for help.
Another parent, Gordev Singh, urged the ministry to allocate a budget for school security, adding that without funds, security was often an afterthought in many schools.