Africa-Press – Mauritius. A three-day workshop on the theme “Child Abuse Prevention: Identification and Reporting in Special Education Needs (SEN) Schools” aimed at enhancing the familiarity of the SEN sector with the phenomenon of child abuse and sustain their actions towards addressing suspected cases of child abuse at school, kickstarted, today at the Rajiv Gandhi Science Centre, Bell Village.
The Chief Guest was the Vice-Prime Minister, Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, Mrs Leela Devi Dookun-Luchoomun. The Minister of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity, Mrs Fazila Jeewa-Daureeawoo, and the Minister of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, Mrs Kalpana Koonjoo-Shah, were also present.
An initiative of the SEN Authority (SENA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare, the Mauritius Police Force and the Mauritius Institute of Education, the workshop is seeing the participation of SEN staff working in SEN schools, and selected parents from each school.
In her address, Vice-Prime Minister Dookun-Luchoomun at the outset, lauded the SENA for having taken the initiative to organise such a workshop which aims at creating a synergy among all stakeholders and institutions in a bid to protect all children.
She stressed the importance for all children to develop in such a manner that they become confident with good self-esteem and are able to flourish, especially those who are more vulnerable.
Reiterating that the protection and safety of children lies at the heart of Government’s agenda, Mrs Dookun-Luchoomun underlined that it is important to create the right environment for the safety of children.
She dwelt on the importance of creating awareness that child abuse of any form such as psychological, verbal, sexual, physical, and neglect should be addressed. The VPM further urged parents to detect any change in the behavioural patterns in children and to report cases of abuse to the authorities.
She also stressed on the need to deter people from committing such acts and highlighted the importance of putting in place a proper Reporting Protocol which should be clear for all institutions.
For her part, Minister Jeewa-Daureeawoo underlined the deep commitment of Government as regards the prevention of child abuse adding that all children deserve to grow up in a secure, caring, loving and safe environment.
She announced that the Ministry of Social Integration, Social Security and National Solidarity is currently working of a piece of legislation aimed at protecting the rights and welfare of children against child abuse and is working in concertation with other Ministries and institutions.
She further added that one of the salient features of the legislation is the setting up of a Unit at the Mauritius Police Force which will comprise therapists, psychologists and trained officers from the Police Force and other institutions.
Minister Jeewa-Daureeawoo emphasised that it is very important to identify, prevent and deter child abuse. As a society and as a family, let us challenge the culture of tolerance for violence and silence when it is perpetrated against children, she said.
According to her, a multi-sectoral approach is a must and training is an important component to enable one to identify signs of abuse. She also spoke about the need to have a clear procedure for reporting cases of child abuse in schools as well as ensuring that every child grows up in a safe and stable environment.
As for Minister Koonjoo-Shah, she deplored the recent incident of child abuse in a SEN school and she vehemently condoned such type of behavior. Any abuse committed on a child, she stated, will not be tolerated or excused.
People need to understand that any crime committed against a child will not go unpunished. As responsible parties supporting our children, be it those with special needs, we have a duty to care and report any case which send out some abnormal signals, she further said.
She emphasised that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family Welfare is fully committed to protecting children and care for their needs and also ascertains that the best interests of the child are preserved and acted upon.
To that effect the children’s act 2020, the Children’s Court Act and the Child Sex Offender Register Act, offer better protection to all our children, she added.
Minister Koonjoo-Shah further said that in a bid to ensure accessibility and proximity service delivery in respect of child protection, provision has been made for the setting up of four additional Child Protection Services in other parts of the country.
The Child Protection Services provide dedicated multi-disciplinary support in a one-stop-shop child-friendly system through a team of professionals attending to the immediate and multi-disciplinary needs of children victims of abuse, she underlined. The opening of the workshop also coincided with the symbolical remittance of tablets to five SEN schools.
The Workshop The workshop aims to identify and understand the types of child abuse and neglect; explore case studies related to child abuse; understand policies and laws related to child protection and abuse; identify child abuse signs and symptoms in SEN schools; and understand the reporting and intervention process in cases of child abuse.