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