WHILE the Moodliar family and caring Malaysians, including Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, are relieved over the safe return of Nayati Shamelin Moodliar following the ransom payment to his abductors, the serious question that must be addressed is how to prevent such incidents in the future.
The kidnapping of Nayati, 12, which has captured the attention of many from far and near, has proven how vulnerable schoolchildren can be and that something must be learnt from the ordeal.
If there is a message that we must always bear in mind arising from the episode, it is that the safety and well-being of children should always be a priority in any society.
We need to take a hard look at all the measures taken by parents, the schools and the police to ensure the safety of our children as society grows more complex and evil intentions persist.
Protecting children from harm is an integral component of protecting their right to survival, growth and development.
Protecting children from despicable criminal acts is the responsibility of all and not just the duty of the authorities.
Protection of children must start at home. Parents must never leave their children unattended and they need to teach their children how to respond to dangerous situations.
Children must be taught to be suspicious of strangers and not to be lured by people unknown to them, or how to escape in the event of trouble.
They must learn how to be street smart as their parents and loved ones cannot be with them all the time. I strongly advocate that proper child safety education be introduced in primary schools.
Guardhouses in schools must tighten security at all times to ensure schoolchildren are not easy targets of criminals. Where possible, closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras must be installed in school compounds.
The call by Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for all schools to tighten their security should result in a re-look of safety guidelines and what must be done to reinforce them.
In the final analysis, what is essential is vigilance by everyone, the students, the schools, parents and society as a whole.
The authorities can also implement various measures to ensure better protection of children and the public.
Foot and motorcycle patrols around schools should be intensified. There should be regular dialogues with resident and business organisations for them to raise their concerns and there should be more campaigns on safety and security, with emphasis on child protection.
Local authorities need to identify more areas for installation of CCTV cameras and pay closer attention to good lighting along backlanes and dark alleys.