The brutal murder of a 7-year-old child in the school premises in Gurgaon, India left the Nation in a state of shock. Citizens are hurt. They want justice for the victim. They demand schools to be safe. In view of this, the Union Minister For Women & Child Development twitted that the Govt. is making an all-out effort to underpin Child Safety in Schools. And has invited suggestions to be forwarded with hashtag
In view of #MissionSchoolSafety, let’s first understand what went wrong at the place where the unfortunate incident happened? Here goes the list:
1. Compound wall: There are ten entry points to the school. This is because of unmanned or broken compound wall.
2. Locality: There existed a wine shop just 27 steps away from the school.
3. Principal: The school did not have a full time Principal for almost the entire year.
4. Credentials of staffs: The background information of bus drivers, conductors, and other staffs of school was not verified.
5. Access area for bus drivers, conductors, and outside workers: Whether employed by the school or contracted out, the area was not limited to just the bus area.
6. Rest rooms: Bus drivers, conductors, and outside workers used to enter the school building, and use the rest rooms meant for kids. Other outside workers of school like gardener etc. also use the same rest rooms as kids.
7. Window grills: The rest room where the sad incident happened had three windows with no grills.
8. The CCTV cameras: All the cameras weren’t working in the campus. Also, the CCTVs installed in the premises were faulty. They were not covering the entire school area.
9. The “Surakshit School Vahan Policy“: was not followed.
10. Expired fire extinguisher: The fire extinguisher installed were expired.
And most importantly, parents were not aware about the security measures implemented by the school.
In view of #MissionSchoolSafety, let’s find out what are the criteria that parents look for admission of their kids to a school?
1. Commute distance: Many parents want a school that is nearby and also good.
2. Academic standards: Many parents look for academics as the prime factor of consideration in a school.
3. Students-to-teacher ratio: Different parents seem to have comfort levels with different ratio numbers. Some parents are comfortable with students-to-teacher ratio of 40:1 and there are parents who prefer if this ratio is as low as 20:1.
4. School boards: Most schools in India offer ICSE, CBSE and SSLC curriculum. Few schools offer international boards like IGCSE and IB. Different boards address the different needs of parents.
5. Overall reputation of school: This is based on the review about teachers, extra curricular activities, school policy on corporal punishment, the looks of the school and class rooms, the functional playground areas, rest rooms, transport facilities, school timing, the locality and sorroundings of the school; and safety concerns like presence of CCTV’s, support staff etc.
The parents of the unfortunate incident also had looked into all the above features. So what went wrong?
#MissionSchoolSafety: There are standard operating procedures about safe school publised by CBSC and Govt. of India Human Resource Development. But is it implemented? If implemented or claimed to be implemented, is it verified by the goverment agencies? And furthermore, is this data available freely to the public?
I assume not.
Let me buttress my point with a digression. Many countries across the world produce reports on crash tests for cars. These test results essentially tell how a car fares during a crash and what are the chances of survival of the occupants when a crash happens. Based on the crash test ratings, certain cars are not allowed to be sold. India is soon going to introduce the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP) from October 2017. The data will be available to the public. This is a very important step taken by the Goverment towards road safety in line with global standards. Can we do something similar for schools?
A ‘Crash Test’ for Schools
We have accreditation boards for schools. We have published safety norms. What we do not have is the safety rating and published data on the same for public viewing. That way, any parent would be able to check how well a school meets and adheres to the standards laid out by the Government. Also, every school should compulsorily have registered Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and hold at least one general body meeting once a year. PTA should have the authority to ckeck the running of the school.
Every accident is a notice that something is wrong with men, methods, or material. We will not be able to bring back Pradyuman. But, Let’s save our children from such horrific incidents.
The need of the hour: A ‘Crash Test’ for Schools!