In light of the recent protests against sexual assault and rape in Bangladesh, alumni communities mobilised to call on schools for immediate change in the culture at the respective institutions through renewed policies, teacher training and important additions to the school curriculum.
In line with this, the Sunbeams School community came together to put forward a five-point demand to their school, with a petition signed by 600 current students and alumni representing batches from 1986 to 2026, as well as parents.
The school's administration has since acknowledged the priority of the issue and committed to all five demands.
The statement from student and alumni bodies said, "As leaders and decision-makers of an educational institution, we call on you to recognise your responsibility, to instil positive values in young students so they grow up to be sensitive, empathetic and responsible citizens of the country."
Gender-based violence is endemic in our society. Specific instances of gender-based violence are not isolated events but rather exist as part of a larger culture that nurtures and reproduces this violence, read the statement issued by the petitioning party.
"In order to fight this culture, we need to address the attitudes, behaviour and conditions that support, condone and lead to sexual and gender-based violence. Our schools are a microcosm of this society that allows harmful behaviour and attitudes to exist without intervention -- eventually leading to more extreme forms of violence. Schools thus have enormous power in shaping the minds of young individuals, instilling positive attitudes rooted in respect and can help model behaviour for a future Bangladesh that is free of gender-based violence," the student and alumni bodies stated.
Through a series of online assemblies across the different age groups, Sunbeams has declared a zero-tolerance policy against all comments and actions that create a culture of victim-blaming and misogyny within the school community.
The school has also committed to bringing about changes to its curriculum and will consult with technical experts, United Nations representatives, youth organisations and NGOs to incorporate topics such as gender norms, consent, body autonomy and peer relationships into the education curriculum; introduce gender sensitisation training for its staff, and establish a standardised complaint mechanism for students to report instances of gender-based discrimination or harassment.
Changes will start being implemented as early as the next semester, in January 2021.
By taking this firm step forward, Sunbeams has declared its commitment to play its role as an educational institute in creating a Bangladesh that is free of gender-based violence.