Home > News > Education
Sunday October 27, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday October 30, 2013 MYT 2:32:41 PM
by kang soon chen
The advantages and disadvantages of installing a surveillance system are aplenty, but most students and school authorities welcome their presence.
BIG BROTHER is watching you, even in schools these days. The presence of closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras along school corridors is a sign that the institution is no longer a safe haven for students.
Due to several high profile child kidnapping cases that have occured around school vicinities, security within and outside the compounds of such institutions have become a huge concern for parents.
One case in point is of Dutch national Nayati Shamelin Moodliar who was kidnapped outside an international school in Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. The images of two men pushing the boy into a car were captured from CCTV cameras from an apartment nearby. The case, in particular, proved the efficacy of the system.
The Education Ministry had in 2008 stated that schools which could afford the surveillance system, should install CCTV cameras at strategic areas to beef up security. This was soon after the disappearance of five-year-old Sharlinie Mohd Nashar who is still missing.
Even then, harm or negative activities can also come from within the school. Too often, we hear about gang fights, bullying, vandalism and incidences of theft committed by students within the school premises.
With a population of over 2,800 students in his school in Negri Sembilan, secondary school principal Adam Nordin* admits that it is an uphill task to monitor the discipline of every student on its grounds. He had approved the installation of 24 CCTV cameras some years ago and another four were added on last year.
Each CCTV surveillance set comes with a DVR recorder, a television set and four infrared cameras while certain sets are equipped with eight cameras.
The entire surveillance system was fully funded by the school’s parent-teacher association (PTA) and cost about RM14,000.
“The main reason for installing the CCTV cameras is for the security of the students and school property. The cameras are placed in areas like the computer lab which are ‘hotspots’ for would-be thieves,” says Adam.
The school has cameras panning all corners of the vicinity including the corridors, canteen, teachers’ parking lot and the main entrance of the school. The system’s control rooms are located in the offices of the principal and the senior assistant.
In the comfort of his office, Adam is able to view the rear entrance of the school which is bordered by a secondary forest.
“The cameras are installed in the teacher’s parking area to ‘capture’ acts of vandalism on teachers’ cars. However, placing cameras in the toilets is an absolute ‘No’ as we need to respect the privacy of our students,” says the principal.
(Two schools in the Klang Valley came under fire recently for installing CCTV cameras in the toilets. The Education Ministry has since ordered the removal of the cameras from the toilets.)
Due to the lack of manpower, the principal says the surveillance footage is not monitored round-the-clock. Instead, the footage is only reviewed if there is a complaint.
From the time the cameras were installed, Adam says disciplinary and vandalism cases in the school have reduced considerably.
“The students are more cautious about breaking school rules since they know that they can be caught red-handed with the evidence on camera.
“There was a student who was caught vandalising the cameras, the parents were called in and asked to pay for the damages,” says the principal.
“Of course, sometimes we are outsmarted by the students. They know ways to avoid getting caught on camera,” adds Adam.
Disciplinary teacher Norman* from Kuala Lumpur shares his views on the school surveillance system saying that:
“Students are very good at finding blind spots where the cameras don’t focus. If they are up to some mischief they will probably do so in areas that are away from the glare and focus of the camera.”
While saying that it would be foolish to think that a CCTV system is the panacea to all problems linked to security and safety, English language teacher Sheila* nevertheless is of the view that such surveillance is mostly useful.
Cameras in many instances, have managed to capture the suspicious mannerisms of the students.
The school she teaches at, had just installed CCTV cameras a few months ago and already, there has been a noticeable decline in disciplinary cases among students.
“There are some students who frequent the toilets too many times in a day ... mainly to smoke and skip classes.
“If teachers can identify the students who pay frequent visits to the toilet based on CCTV footage, we can round them up and ask them what they are up too,” says Sheila.
SMK Rawang (Semekar) PTA chairman Mohd Saufi Shafie agrees that CCTV cameras are installed as a deterant against delinquent behaviour among students especially in schools with a large population of students.
“Previously there were several gang fight cases in the school but the teachers were unable to intervene in time to stop the students.
“With the CCTV surveillance, it is easier to monitor the activities of students. The teachers can take immediate action if any untoward behaviour is seen on the footage,” says Mohd Saufi.
However, he says the reason for coming up with the surveillance systems six months ago was to mainly act against intruders who come into the school premises to allegedly steal desks and chairs during the term holidays.
“School furniture had gone missing during the holidays late last year and the culprit/s were never caught.
“Installing the CCTV cameras seems to be a good investment as otherwise the PTA would have to foot the extra cost to buy furniture.
“This is why we came to a consensus with the school administration that the installation of the CCTV cameras should go ahead,” says Mohd Saufi.
Suhakam Commissioner James Nayagam says the issue of the infringement of the students’ rights does not arise as long as the CCTV cameras are installed in the public area.
“Kidnapping cases for instance, usually happen in open areas.
“It is a different matter if the cameras are installed in the toilet cubicles or the changing rooms, it then becomes an invasion of privacy, we will be neglecting the best interest of the child if the CCTV cameras are installed in these places,” says Nayagam.
He adds that having cameras at the entrance to the toilet should be off limits as it is deemed “unnecessary and intruding into an individual’s private space”.
“A clear boundary must be drawn between security and privacy, the main reason for installing the cameras should be the security of the students,” says Nayagam.
Parent Nora Baharuddin concurs, saying that CCTV cameras should only be installed for security and as a deterrent against unacceptable and detrimental incidents.
“With incidences of theft being common in schools, the surveillance footage do help,” she adds.
However, she believes that the cameras should be kept out of the classrooms.
“I don’t see any reason for having cameras in the classroom since teachers are present most of the time. Furthermore, having surveillance in the classroom would be undermining the authority of the teacher,” says Nora.
Students interviewed were of two minds but most agree that surveillance can be effective in curbing disciplinary problems, like Yew Zhi Hong who is a prefect from a secondary school in Perak.
“As a prefect, I have encountered many cases in which school authorities have failed to penalise the students due to lack of proof. Having CCTV cameras not only solves the problem but helps in sending out the message that delinquent behaviour will not be tolerated,” says Zhi Hong.
“There are some who say that CCTV cameras infringe on the privacy of the students, or that it instils the sense of fear in them.
“Let me give you a situation. If you are bullied in school and eyewitnesses are reluctant to back you up because they are afraid of the bully/bullies, would you prefer having CCTV cameras that will help you bring justice?”
Meanwhile, student Vishal Singh from Penang is unconvinced that CCTV surveillance can bring down disciplinary cases in schools.
“The camera doesn’t pan 360 degrees and neither does it have eight pairs of eyes. If a student is up to no good, they would make sure they are under the blind spot.
“I do understand that the cameras are there as a preventive measure ... perhaps even as a detection tool, but are they really worth it? Disciplinary problems should be curbed through other methods, parents and teachers need to find out the root causes of the problem,” says the 15-year-old.
* Names have been changed.
Tags / Keywords:
Education, cctv camera
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)