The brutal murder of seven year old Pradyumn in the bathroom of a reputable school, Ryan International School, in Gurugram, last week has left parents from the National Capital Region (NCR) and in fact from all over India in a deep state of shock. The police have arrested the school’s bus conductor who is believed to have slit the child’s throat after having tried to molest him. The gory details of the assault and the bloodbath, the fact that the conductor himself helped carry the child to an ambulance when the police was called in, only fueled the rage of Pradyumn’s parents and parents of school going kids across the country. What is worse is that a couple of days later a 5 year old girl in another prominent school in Delhi was also raped (reportedly by a security guard).
These are by no means isolated incidents. Over the past few years incidents of sexual abuse in schools have increased considerably. Not just sexual abuse, negligence too has been a grave concern. Earlier last month, a 10 year old student of GD Goenka School in Indirapuram died due to injuries from a fall in the school. Parents alleged that the floor was wet and the child had slipped due to the school’s negligence. Earlier in May, a six year old was found dead due to drowning in the water tank of Ryan International’s Vasant Kunj branch. These cases have shaken up the nation. The resounding question now is – How safe are our schools?
Parents As Partners
Schools have increasingly become commercial institutions which operate on great profit margins. While services such as enhanced security, CCTV, and air-conditioning are promised at the time of admission, in reality many of these services are not provided. In the case of the murder of Pradyumn, a number of the CCTVs in Ryan International School were found to be inoperative. Parents often fail to notice or question these lapses, sometimes out of fear that their children may face the ire of school administration if the latter is questioned. The ratio of teachers to students too is very high to ensure the security of the children.
Pradyumn’s parents raise very valid questions when they ask how the school managed to employ personnel who did not undergo security screening. How is it that the school allowed a knife to be smuggled into an educational institution full of children? In most of the cases of sexual abuse, assault, and negligence, school personnel are seen to be at fault. Most schools, however, fail at security screenings at the time of recruitment. The best way to overcome such a situation is to partner with a parent association that can hold regular inspection of facilities, routinely check security measures, and provide inputs for improvement of services.
Safety In Schools
The implementation of the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act or Right to Education Act (2009) has made way for the establishment of a great many schools in the country. While some of the urban schools do ensure the presence of the requisite infrastructure and security for the students, a great number of them are safety hazards. A number of rural schools do not even have toilets and students are forced to go out in the open – a grave security threat for the boys and girls alike. Unless the government undertakes stringent measures to ensure basic security measures, and boards provide affiliation only if these are implemented, it looks like nothing much can be done about the situation.
SC Sits Up And Takes Notice
The Supreme Court of India, India’s apex court, has taken notice of the recent murder of Pradyumn from Ryan International School. The court has ruled that it is not a problem with this particular school but a common problem across the country and has also directed the Central Government to take steps to ensure that a similar incident does not occur. The Haryana government has promised the parents of the young boy that a CBI le enquiry would be instated if they are not satisfied with the investigation of the Gurugram police. It looks very likely that CBSE and other school boards will also soon come up with elaborate directives for the schools to ensure the safety and security of the students studying in them.