In Season 4, Episode 2 of Black Mirror, a popular series on Netflix, an over protective mother implants a child monitoring system on her daughter so she could track her every move. The episode follows life of Sara, the child, and her mother, and how constant monitoring basically screwed up her childhood. It sent chills down my spine.
Arvind Kejriwal led Delhi Government recently started installing CCTV cameras across all government schools in Delhi where parents can get live streaming of the classroom their child is studying in.
Reviewed the progress of installation of CCTV cameras in each class in all govt schools. Each parent will be given access to see his child studying in class on realtime basis on his phone. This will make the whole system transparent and accountable. It will ensure safety of kids
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 17, 2018
Clearly, film review enthusiast doesn’t watch Netflix.
Kejriwal claims this will make the system ‘transparent’ and ‘accountable’. Like every other duty of his government, Kejriwal has outsourced the responsibility of ensuring safety of children in schools to the parents, who must now keep a constant watch on their children. Meanwhile, kids who’d rather play a little prank here and there, are robbed off their childhood because there are eyes, especially of their parents, constantly watching them.
When I was in school, my favourite thing to do was throw a paper plane whenever the teacher turned their backs on us. Now, of course, a student in Delhi might not be able to do so because not just his parents, but even parents of all their classmates are watching him. If not his classmates, the parents of his classmates, who may be deprived of humour, may call him out for just being little naughty.
And I am not buying the ‘safety’ argument. Shouldn’t parents be able to trust the schools when it comes to safety of their children? How can an education ecosystem be created when there is lack of trust amongst different stakeholders? The installation of CCTV cameras was taken up following the rape of a five year old girl in her school in Shahdara, and killing of a seven year old in a private school in Gurugram. While there should be no compromise on safety of children, this constant surveillance also infringes the right to privacy, which is a fundamental right.
Creating of vigilantism in ecosystem is detrimental to build a healthy environment in schools. Not only will the students feel inhibited from expressing themselves freely, even the teachers, who could use reasonable amount of strictness to discipline children, may be wary of taking any action for fear of being reprimanded by overly protective parents, many who never accept their child could be in the wrong. In fact, the 24×7 surveillance on teachers has also proved to be adverse for morale of the teachers who feel their professionalism is undermined.
In fact, other parents having access to constant monitoring of their children could open a whole lot of other problems. You really never know who is watching your children on their smart phones all the time. Shouldn’t the schools and government take consent of all the parents, as legal guardian of the children, before putting their privacy at sake? And if at all the cameras need to be installed, it is unclear why anyone other than select group of senior management personnel need to have a look. After all, the parents should be trusting management enough to be sending their children in the school. Moreover, evidence has suggested that CCTV cameras hardly help in curbing criminality. If children know they are under observation, and they indeed have criminal inclination, they will take the behaviour outside school gates which are not under camera observation, giving schools the opportunity to shrug off the responsibility since the ‘crime’ took place outside school premises.
And then there is the threat of misuse of cameras. Will the cameras be in toilets too? How will it be ensured that the access to these videos does not fall into wrong hands? In fact, studies have shown rather than bringing benefits, CCTV in schools can fuel suspicion, indoctrinate children into a culture of surveillance. In fact, no independent research shows benefit of CCTV cameras in schools despite widespread use.
If criminality in school is suspected, the teachers, management should get take up the issue with police and other relevant authorities instead of passing off the baton to parents. What if children grow up accepting that voyeurism is normal?
Well, one may not know an answer to all these questions, one does know that with this move, Kejriwal has ensured that these kids when they grow of age, are definitely not voting to power the one who essentially ruined what could have been the best days of their lives.
And while we are on topic of CCTV cameras, how about starting it with keeping few in offices of Delhi MLAs to begin with?