Is Reality turning to be a myth?
A recent instance in Chennai Metropolitan city, where a four-year-old LKG student was kidnapped from one of the more famous schools, Chettinad Vidyashram in R A Puram for a ransom of 10 lakh on August 8th 2013, by a stranger posing as a cab driver. Though it is not a new incident happening in our country, isn’t it very strange and scary to think if any such incident happens to our own child?
It is vital to look into the statistics to have a better picture of the scene happening around our children. According to data from National Crime Records Bureau, in India, a child goes missing every eight minutes, and the saddest part is almost 40 % of those children haven’t been found.” According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), almost 60,000 children were reported missing in 2011, most of them from schools. Of these, 22,000 are yet to be located.
Those were old secured days, when parents left their children happily in schools without any worry, because schools were a second home in every sense. With time, this supposed reality has become a myth. Today, most parents have school phobia and not the children.
Time and again, history has showed and strictly warned us with various incidents such as
• Mid- Day Meal Tragedy in July 2013;
• Fire Accident at Sri Krishna School, Kumbakonam, July 2004; Or the
• Dabwali tragedy in Haryana in 1995 where a tent caught fire at the DAV Public School caught fire resulting in the death of 441 children;
• Along with this hundreds of cases of kidnapping, child abuse and punishment, drowning in school swimming pool etc. each day.
It’s time we accept the reality that, Indian Schools are scandalously low on security, leading to many crimes and accidents affecting our tiny little tots. It is frightening to believe and accept that our children are not safe in schools anymore. Hence we cannot act blind from these glitches.
To list a few, major safety issues are: basic required standards of Infrastructure with respect to quality of buildings and its foundation, lack of fire extinguishers and knowledge of students, teachers etc. to use and access the same, lack of security arrangements leading to violent crimes like kidnapping or abduction and school shooting, lack of quality of food given to children, child sexual abuse and child molestation, physical abuse, child labour, lack of hygienic and clean environment etc.
These are just few. There are many small problems that our children might be facing, and fearing for their own reasons to unable to convey it to us. It is found that these are not only happening in government schools, but also in private schools were the management charges a lump some money in the name of education, amenities, safety and comfort.
According to Part III of Indian Constitution ( Fundamental Rights) and Part IV of the Constitution (Directive Principles), there are various laws which govern the safety of children like Article 14, 15(3), 19(1), 21, 22, 23, 24, 39(e) & (f), 44, 45, 47, & 51( c ). Besides these laws, there are Acts such as National Building Code of India, 2005, in particular Part IV ¬ Fire & Life Safety and the Code of Practice of Fire Safety in Educational Institutions (IS 14435:1997) of the Bureau of Indian Standards, Section 83, 88 of Indian Penal Code, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 (Section23), The Guardian and Wards Act 1890, The Guardian and Wards Act 1890 etc. According to the principles of Doli Incapaxi, children under the age of seven cannot be given any form of punishment. Though there are so many laws passed for our child’s safety, the bitter truth is none of them are enforced.
The moment is upon us now to open our eyes widely and understand the picture clearly, because we cannot risk our children’s well – being at any cost. Today a school’s responsibility does not end with providing quality education. Safety of the students is as much an integral part of the service provided by it.
Hence, next time parents select a learning institution for their child, besides seeing the reputation and popularity of the school, it is very important for them, to have an eye on other various factors such as whether the institutional authorities are safety conscious and adopted measures of fire safety, fire alarms, sufficient number of fire extinguishers in working condition depending on the size of the school and the knowledge to use the same, regular safety drills, building safety in its eternity which includes the quality of paint (lead free) used, windows with protective grills, proper installations of glass panes etc.
It is also necessary to have a check on whether the school building is protected from earthquake and lightning strikes. It is equally important to look at the safety of playgrounds, playing equipment and toys given to children. Swimming pools and school transportation too need to be scrutinised carefully from the point of safety.
Every school needs to have adequate first aid facilities and arrangements for medical care in case of an emergency. Hence it is vital to find out whether they have tie up with any hospitals. It is heartening to see that schools are planning to opt for a GPS tracking device on their school buses and the parents will also receive text messages every time the child embarks or disembarks the bus.
Schools have to ensure that the security agency stationed near each exit door is trustworthy by monitoring the performance of security guards. Schools must ensure that they run a background check on all staff and that includes, both teaching and non-teaching staff so that every child is in safe hands. Constant checking of a student’s attendance is one of the best ways to be able to maintain proper security in a school.
Besides this government needs to have a closer look on all these factors before issuing license to the management, along with mandatory inspections and audits giving ratings for the schools at regular intervals.
Above all this, parents have to converse about everything related to child’s school life and have constant interaction with the school authorities, because no task is as important as creating a safe and secure learning environment for our children.