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Cameras in schools reflect loss of trust, privacy

Update: February, 24/2016 - 08:56

by Bich Huong

Cameras installed in classes are said to help oversee the behavior of students and teachers better and reduce school violence, but the presence of such a "supervisor" is threatens the privacy of those who are supervised.

Schools, especially those in cities, have cameras installed as a guarantee for their commitment to provide students a safe climate.

Many parents, especially those with children at nursery ages, seek camera-installed schools as a way to reassure themselves after seeing clips on the internet of child abuse or fights among students.

The school cameras allow, parents, after taking their child to school, and arriving at home or the office, to turn on a webcam to see in real time what the child is doing and how teachers treat their children.

A tenth-grader in Ha Noi's Tay Ho District, Vuong Minh Hieu, said that it was not good if there are cameras which record all activities they have at school.

"How can we talk and play with each other naturally if we know that a camera somewhere is recording us and outsiders see what we do," Hieu said.

But, with a second thought, Hieu said cameras cannot cover every place in school.

"Diamond cuts diamonds," he said, implying that they would find ways to deactivate the cameras.

There are other funny stories relating to the webcam which provides viewers with images, no sound.

For example, a mother sees a person with black overcoat rush to her child and seemingly hit him. She rushes to his class not knowing that children are playing a fighting game.

Or a father sees his son sitting and crying almost all the time he has a look on the webcam in three hours. When he phones to the son's teacher, he is informed that the camera or transmission lines had an error. The son cried a little and is now playing well with friends.

What would happen if there were no cameras, no webcams in the above mentioned cases? Do the cameras make parents less worried about their children when they are at school? Why do parents want cameras?

"To let them know how the children are and their school life is," many parents say, adding that teachers won't dare to maltreat children because the camera records their actions.

Preliminary estimates by the Ministry of Education and Training early last year show that there are about 1,600 fights between students in and out of school during a school year in Viet Nam, or one fight for every 5,200 students.

After seeing a flood of media reports on school violence or witnessing fights themselves, parents seem to be more skeptical and have lost confidence in schools. They don't want their children to be abused at school, and being afraid of such violence they know that if it happens, cameras will provide them obvious evidence.

So, there is a lack of trust here.

Do Thu Ha, a pre-school teacher in Ha Noi, said that they also had cameras installed in classes but the tapes were not public to children's parents.

"Only school teachers and managers can see the recordings and we only looked at them when something unusual happened," she said.

"Normally, parents of our students can't see the camera recordings. I have not seen anyone ask for the recordings," Ha said.

"I guess they trust us," she said, adding that teachers there did not bother about the cameras as they did nothing wrong to their students.

Van Nhu Cuong, chairman of Luong The Vinh High School, said cameras helped to oversee students. For example, students take written examinations seriously because they are aware of the camera.

To teachers, cameras should not make them nervous because the cameras were installed toward students, he said, noting that the installation of cameras in classes and the recorded data must be considered carefully.

Chief Secretariat of HCM City's Education and Training Department office, Do Minh Hoang, told that the department did not encourage schools to install cameras.

He said the move could make both teachers and students nervous due to the feeling of "being followed".

Moreover, it was not a good way to curb school violence.

"School violence will be curbed effectively with improved moral education by school, family and society," he said. — VNS

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