De­spite pay­ing hefty school fees, par­ents feel cheated as in­sti­tutes pro­vide least se­cu­rity to wards

Ris­ing cases of hor­rific crimes, in­clud­ing mur­der and rape, against stu­dents in Delhi-NCR schools have sparked shock and out­rage. DNA does a re­al­ity check at schools and finds glar­ing loop­holes

DNA (Delhi) - - FRONT PAGE - An­vit Sri­vas­tava an­vit.sri­vas­tava@dnain­dia.net

Hundreds of par­ents and lo­cals stormed Gu­ru­gram’s Ryan In­ter­na­tional School, ranked among the top in the coun­try, and van­dalised it af­ter a bus at­ten­dant bru­tally killed a 7-year-old stu­dent on the cam­pus on Septem­ber 8. While an­gry protests es­ca­lated and shock and out­rage spread, a drunk peon raped a 5-year-old stu­dent the very next day — this time at a pri­vate school in Delhi.

The two back-to-back hor­rific crimes ex­posed how un­safe our chil­dren are at some of the schools, which charge ex­or­bi­tant fees and make tall claims about fa­cil­i­ties but do al­most noth­ing in the name of se­cu­rity. In Gu­ru­gram, a gov­ern­ment probe found crim­i­nal neg­li­gence and ut­ter se­cu­rity fail­ure, and the po­lice ar­rested two top of­fi­cials of Ryan In­ter­na­tional that runs nearly 150 schools across India and in the United Arab Emi­rates.

“When you read or hear about such crimes, you tell your­self that your chil­dren are some­how safe… but you’re ac­tu­ally pet­ri­fied from inside,” says Sushil Rana, who works at an MNC in Gu­ru­gram. His wife is an em­ployee of an ex­port house in South Delhi’s Saket. They re­cently de­cided to let their daugh­ter travel in a school bus as their busy sched­ule did not al­low them to drop and pick her up reg­u­larly. But the Ryan case has left them and many oth­ers shocked.

“How could some­body take a knife inside? There should be some mea­sure to scan such ob­jects that can harm oth­ers. There has to be an ex­pla­na­tion,” says Ashok Agar­wal of All India Par­ents’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

Ryan is not alone. Most schools in Delhi and the Na­tional Cap­i­tal Re­gion (NCR) are busy milk­ing par­ents and let­ting in­no­cent chil­dren die tragic deaths. Last month, Ar­man Se­h­gal, a class IV stu­dent of GD Goenka In­ter­na­tional School in Ghazi­abad’s Indi­ra­pu­ram, died in mys­te­ri­ous cir­cum­stances af­ter he had a fall out­side his class­room. In July, a mi­nor was raped in a pri­vate school cab in West Delhi by the driver.

In Jan­uary, sec­ond grader Ghazal Ya­dav died mys­te­ri­ously at Delhi Pub­lic World School in Greater Noida af­ter she fell un­con­scious while par­tic­i­pat­ing in a karate com­pe­ti­tion. Sev­eral such cases were re­ported last year as well. Ryan it­self was caught in a con­tro­versy af­ter a 6-year-old stu­dent was found dead in a wa­ter tank at its New Delhi es­tab­lish­ment.

There is some hope among par­ents as the Supreme Court is hear­ing a pe­ti­tion filed by the Gu­ru­gram child’s fa­ther for bet­ter safety at schools across India. The court has is­sued no­tice to the Cen­tre, Haryana Po­lice, the Cen­tral Board of Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion (CBSE) and the CBI on the plea that also seeks a probe into the Gu­ru­gram case. On Thurs­day, the par­ents of the GD Goenka In­ter­na­tional School child also moved the top court for a CBI probe.

Author­i­ties have swung into ac­tion af­ter the re­cent cases and protests. The Delhi po­lice has asked all schools to re-ver­ify all their con­trac­tual and reg­u­lar em­ploy­ees with po­lice sta­tions with­out de­lay. “We have taken mea­sures, in­clud­ing CCTV in­stal­la­tion, to en­sure safety of chil­dren in schools. A list of ac­tions to be taken has been cir­cu­lated in all schools, pri­vate or gov­ern­ment, and of­fi­cials have been asked to en­sure im­me­di­ate com­pli­ance,” says a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer. Ac­cord­ing to him, win­ning back the con­fi­dence of par­ents in schools is the fore­most chal­lenge for the po­lice.

The DCPs have been asked to talk to school author­i­ties and con­duct reg­u­lar se­cu­rity au­dits that check whether the chil­dren are left unat­tended at any time, which ar­eas the staff and chil­dren have ac­cess to, and whether the teach­ers are hand­ing the chil­dren over to their par­ents or leav­ing them unat­tended.

Delhi Lt Gov­er­nor Anil Bai­jal on Wed­nes­day asked Deputy Chief Min­is­ter Man­ish Siso­dia to make se­cu­rity mea­sures, sug­gested by the po­lice and other stake­hold­ers, manda­tory for recog­ni­tion of schools. The L-G also di­rected the Delhi po­lice to waive ver­i­fi­ca­tion charges for pri­vate schools to in­cen­tivise the process. This came two days af­ter he or­dered schools to in­stall CCTV cam­eras, cov­er­ing their en­tire premises, and com­plete po­lice ver­i­fi­ca­tion of their non-teach­ing staff within three weeks.

Manoj Kashyap, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cer, has two school-go­ing daugh­ters. “Schools should do ev­ery­thing it takes to se­cure chil­dren. Small chil­dren should not be left alone even for a minute. Em­ploy­ees’ ver­i­fi­ca­tion and reg­u­lar in­spec­tions must be done,” he

says. Every child go­ing to school should be free of fear to keep her psy­cho­log­i­cally healthy, says Kashyap.

The Na­tional Pro­gres­sive Schools’ Con­fer­ence, an as­so­ci­a­tion of over 1,000 pri­vate schools in Delhi, has a slightly dif­fer­ent view. “The re­cent cases are un­for­tu­nate and ex­pose se­ri­ous lapses that need to be in­ves­ti­gated, but schools gen­er­ally have strict mea­sures in place to en­sure safety of chil­dren. A sweep­ing gen­er­al­i­sa­tion that schools are un­safe would be un­fair,” says an NPSC mem­ber.

But there are larger con­cerns. In Delhi, al­most every hour, a child falls prey to crimes such as mur­der, rape, kid­nap­ping, sex­ual ha­rass­ment, stalk­ing and voyeurism. The num­ber of such crimes dou­bled be­tween 2011 and 2016. On an av­er­age, 22 cases were re­ported every day in 2016. The fig­ures in 2015, 2014 and 2013 were 26, 25 and 20, re­spec­tively. In the two pre­vi­ous years, the num­bers were 12 and 11.

The po­lice, how­ever, claims that beat con­sta­bles and women cops reg­u­larly visit schools and houses. “We do coun­selling, con­duct aware­ness pro­grammes and im­part self-de­fence train­ing. Let­ter boxes have been placed in com­mu­ni­ties to re­ceive di­rect com­plaints from chil­dren,” says a po­lice of­fi­cer. “We pri­ori­tise such cases and deal with them sen­si­tiv­ity.”

How could some­body take a knife inside the school? There should be some­one to check and scan such ob­jects at the gates it­self. Some­one has to ex­plain. Ashok Agar­wal

of All India Par­ents’ As­so­ci­a­tion

When you read or hear about such crimes, you con­sole your­self say­ing your chil­dren are some­how safe… How­ever, you’re pet­ri­fied from within. Sushil Rana, MNC em­ployee in Gu­ru­gram

Schools should do ev­ery­thing it takes to se­cure the chil­dren. Every child should be with­out fear at school, so that she can be psy­cho­log­i­cally strong and healthy. Manoj Kashyap,

gov­ern­ment of­fi­cer

What hap­pened in Gu­ru­gram could hap­pen to our chil­dren as well. We trusted the school when we dropped our kids there. Now, we are scared till they’re home. Bhavna Ma­lik, mother of two

Re­cent cases are un­for­tu­nate and ex­pose se­ri­ous lapses that need a thorogh probe. How­ever, any sweep­ing gen­er­al­i­sa­tion that all schools are un­safe is un­fair Mem­ber of a schools’ body

GAJANAN NIRPHALE

TEACH­ERS ALSO PER­PE­TRA­TORS IN SOME CASES NO UNI­FORM POL­ICY FOR SCHOOLS TO FOL­LOW IL­LE­GAL SCHOOL VANS POSE A HUGE THREAT LACK OF CLEAR NORMS LEAVE EVEN THE PO­LICE CLUE­LESS SOME SCHOOLS LACK SEP­A­RATE WASH­ROOMS CCTV CAM­ERA FOOTAGE IS RARELY MON­I­TORED CRIME AGAINST CHIL­DREN IN DELHI www.dnain­dia.com I twit­ter.com/dna I epaper.dnain­dia.com I face­book.com/dnain­dia

— FILE PHOTO

Par­ents and lo­cals protest out­side Ryan In­ter­na­tional School in Gu­ru­gram on Septem­ber 8, hours af­ter a 7-year-old child was found bru­tally mur­dered.

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