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Unsafe Schools: The Flip Side

Unsafe Schools: The Flip Side

The entire teaching fraternity and school managements all over India are ashamed of the incidents in GD Goenka Indirapuram, Ryan International Gurugram and Tagore Public School Delhi. We do sympathize with the parents of victims. As the cases are sub judice and under investigation by the Police and CBI, one should not comment on the same. But there is another side, less discussed.

Every teacher and school knows very well that the safety of every student who is entrusted to them by the parents is their paramount responsibility. Except a few perverts, no sensible teacher with balanced mind intentionally harms his or her students. No school management leaves any stone unturned whenever a need is felt to improve, add, purchase, and repair anything that is needed to take care of the safety of students. Why will they compromise, knowing very well that any mishap in the school campus or in the school transport will tarnish the image of the staff and management of the school, and to repair the damage, much more money, time and effort has to be spent, and consequently the ill reputation will affect the existing strength of students and admissions in the following year? Unless the parents send their children, how can the schools run the show, spread education or generate income? Only a fool will cut the branch of a tree on which he sits.

Majority of the schools already have most of the facilities what the District administrations, Education Departments, the honourable Supreme Court and the CBSE have now asked all the schools to arrange. We have been having CCTVs in and around the school and buses, security guards  from registered agencies to screen the visitors, fire extinguishers and smoke detectors and alarms, GPS and speed governors, separate toilets and resting place for non-teaching staff, lady guards or maids near the toilets, teachers in buses, escort cards for parents or escorts who come to take children, buddy system among pre-primary students, medical room with first aid kits, oxygen cylinders, medicines and nurses, etc.   

It’s natural that technical things may stop working, get damaged at times. Getting them repaired or replaced may take one or two days or a week depending upon the technicians with whom we have AMC. The perverted criminals among teaching or non-teaching staff certainly will choose such places and time when CCTVs don’t work or the guard is away.

Even after sending the documents of the non-teaching staff for police verification to the local police, they don’t help us. Only the last week when this issue was raised in a meeting with SSP Ghaziabad, the Principals were told that it is done from SSP office not in local police station.

Now more number of CCTVs, lady guards in every bus and other measures like bio-metric machines for visitors, panic buttons in buses, and ambulance and doctors for medical room, psychometric tests for teaching staff etc. are going to be added as per the demand and instructions from various state and central authorities for the safety of students. But who will pay for the huge increase in expenses. When the schools raise the development charges, the parents come out in public protesting against the same, and again the same state and central authorities including the courts intervene and the schools are asked to roll back the raised fees. No one listens to the schools. Nobody comes to our support. Whenever something unintentionally or accidentally goes wrong, school authorities are blamed by the parents, students and the district, state and central authorities without listening to their side.

The governments and other stakeholders conveniently forget the fact that the private schools are sharing their responsibilities of educating more than half of the student population of India. They forget the pathetic conditions of government schools. How many government schools are provided with funds to have such safety measures and facilities which the private schools are asked to have? They even do not have boundary walls and toilets for students, forget about non-teaching staff. Not even a single security guard to monitor the students, staff and visitors. No CCTV cameras or even I-Cards for staff or students. Incidents of such sorts do take place there too. Nobody is there to question that. Even the media remain mute spectators.

We, the teachers and the school management at times feel that we made a big blunder of choosing this profession or starting schools. We are so demoralized and demotivated by media, our own stakeholders and the authorities. We no more feel the pride and nobility of our profession.  For the mistake of a few, the majority is looked down upon. We are treated as immoral and unethical lot. We have lost the self-esteem.

Teaching and running a school is no longer a respectable service. Neither teachers nor school management wants their next generation to take up this profession. All dread this. All are discouraged.

The teachers start their duty from 6am with bus duty to accompany the students to school, quite often standing risking their own safety. They stand in the assembly and classes for another 6 hours. Even during the interval they are asked to be in the class, floors, stairs and ground ensuring that the students take their lunch and move around without hurting each other by running helter-skelter in the corridor or ground. They don’t have a fixed and relaxed time to take their own lunch leisurely and peacefully. Their free periods too are taken for substitutions, preparations for school activities, copy corrections, preparation for their classes, question paper making, evaluation etc. Even at the dispersal after class, they are on duty to monitor the students’ disciplined exit from school building to buses and to school gate. In spite of their instructions to be line and not to hurry, if a student runs and falls or hit against others and get bruises, the teacher on duty is blamed by the school authorities and the parents. They heave a sigh of relief only after reaching students of their bus safely home.

Due to the media hype of such isolated incidents, the parents are easily agitated and get annoyed with the school staff and management for slightest reasons. Today morning I had a teacher in panic in my office informing that she and a student of class one travelling in her bus hit against the handle bar of the front seat when suddenly the driver had to apply brake to save a bike rider who took U-turn unexpectedly. She was not concerned about the pain on her forehead but about the student and was afraid of the reaction of the authorities and parents. There are numerous examples of such unintentional incidents happening in schools in which the Principal and staff are blamed unnecessarily. The immediate action demanded by the media and parents, and the school management take soon after such an incident is to suspend, arrest and terminate the Principal, even if the culprit is a perverted or careless guard, class IV employee, conductor or driver.

The rules are now so strict that even light scolding or raising the voice to erring student calls for a strict action against the teacher. Parents having only one or two kids cannot tolerate anyone else scolding their children, forget about physical punishment. Consequently, disciplining children have become an uphill task. Gentle advice, counselling sessions, moral stories and pep talk have very little effect during intervals, dispersal and travelling in the bus. Children are full of energy. They have the natural instinct to run even to fetch anything from a short distance or as soon as they are let off their class for anything either individually or in group. As a result, they get hurt or hit against each other.

If the mindsets of the parents are not going to change, if they continue to shout at and insult teachers in front of their wards, if they don’t properly understand the real cause of every incident, if they are not patient with the school staff and don’t listen to their side, the students will stop respecting teachers. Disciplining students will become more difficult. We will be bringing up an undisciplined and immoral generation whom even the parents may not be able to control. They will be harmful to the society even. 

(The writer is the Principal of a school in the National Capital Region.)

(Published on 24th September 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 39)