Wallis Wang and Stacy Shi
Staff, volunteers and other parties working at child-related institutions should be given a clear code of conduct that identifies what constitutes appropriate and inappropriate behavior and requires them to acknowledge it with their signatures, Plan International Hong Kong said yesterday.
The call came as a 13-year-old boy was allegedly slapped by a teacher at a madrassa this month, requiring him to undergo a six-hour surgery for a detached and torn retina.
It was part of a child safeguarding policy framework announced by the local chapter of Plan International – one of the world’s leading development organizations specifically focusing on children based in the UK.
All such institutions should give clear guidelines to staff, parents and children to support them in reporting suspicions of child abuse, it said, adding that “all incidents, allegations and complaints should be clearly recorded and stored.”
Institutions should also establish a clear time limit on case handling and set guidelines to ensure children are well protected during an investigation.
”[Institutions should] establish a whistleblowing policy where employees should be able to report abuse or suspicions of abuse without fear of retribution and discrimination,” it said.
They should also minimize potential daily risks to children and protect their privacy by seeking consent before distributing personal information or photos.
Potential staff should be screened for possible sexual convictions and over their attitude and abilities in child protection. Staff and volunteers should also get regular training and support on child safety.
The chapter said the assault on the 13-year-old was “heartbreaking.”
It said “the parents of another student in the same class have contacted the victim’s family asking them not to inform the police for fear that the incident will tarnish the reputation of their culture and religion even though the student was slapped by the teacher before.
”This reflects the urgency to enhance the public’s, especially children’s and parents’ awareness of children’s rights and child safeguarding policy. The public should not keep scandals hidden. On the contrary, it is time to create an open and child-friendly culture that places children’s well-being as a priority.”
The boy was allegedly struck on August 5 after failing to recite a verse from the Koran by Khan Shahzad, 35, who was arrested last Friday and charged in a Eastern magistrate’s court on Monday. He was granted bail until the next hearing on September 25.
On August 5, the day of the incident, he was a volunteer at Madrassa Taleemul Furqan Islamic Union in Quarry Bay.