Ap­a­thy of Con­vent Ed­u­ca­tion

When a par­ent sends her child to school, the least she ex­pects is that he will be home back safe and not found in the wash­room with his throat slit, while his lunch­box is still not cold

The Day After - - CONTENT - By DANES

Amother takes the big­gest leap of faith when she wave to her chil­dren as they leave for school. This sce­nario is repli­cated across a gazil­lion house­holds, a fly­ing kiss from a bus win­dow or a back­ward glance and smile from the school gate is what all of us hold on to, till later that af­ter­noon, our pre­cious lit­tle peo­ple get back home, burst­ing with aca­demic news which for us has al­ways been sec­ondary. We have two stan­dard ques­tions we ask daily: “Did any­one bully you?” and “Did any­one touch you at all, did any­one lay a fin­ger on you?”

For the fam­ily of a 7-year old in Gur­gaon, the “have a good day” wave turned into unimag­in­able tragedy even be­fore his fa­ther reached home af­ter the school drop-off. Found with his throat slit in the wash­room just min­utes af­ter he reached school, the boy was re­port­edly try­ing to es­cape the clutches of a man try­ing to sex­u­ally as­sault him, a bus con­duc­tor who the po­lice say has ac­cepted killing the boy. This was a lit­tle child who at his naïve age was only look­ing for­ward to hav­ing a rou­tine day in school with his friends; in­stead, it’s a day that has changed his par­ents’ life for­ever.

For fam­i­lies who trust a school to look af­ter their child for the bet­ter part of a day, there are many scary loop­holes in this nar­ra­tive. How was a bus con­duc­tor walk­ing un­no­ticed in the school cor­ri­dors and then us­ing a wash­room that should be re­served only for stu­dents? If his ad­mis­sion is cor­rect, how was a man who can so eas­ily knife a lit­tle boy driv­ing count­less chil­dren to school ev­ery day? It will be un­fair to gen­er­al­ize, but when it comes to chil­dren, most of us are para­noid first and rea­son­able later. This was a stu­dent who didn’t even take the school bus. Where does that leave the ma­jor­ity of us, many with chil­dren still so in­no­cent that they re­fer to their bus driv­ers and con­duc­tors as the fa­mil­iar “bus wale bhaiyya?”

We haven’t even re­cov­ered from the hor­ror at Ryan In­ter­na­tional School and there is more. A 5-year old, for whom school is, or should be, about swings and gig­gles, has re­port­edly been raped by a peon in­side a class­room in yet an­other Delhi school. How does one re­act when in­no­cence is be­ing ham­mered so bru­tally?

There are few more lu­cra­tive busi­nesses

to­day than ed­u­ca­tion. The D-word (dona­tions) is an open se­cret. To max­imise prof­its, classes are stuffed with so many chil­dren that teach­ers find it dif­fi­cult to con­trol kids even in Kinder­garten. Most schools need to hire ex­tra buses to ferry their stu­dents home and it may not be sur­pris­ing that a large num­ber of them have done no due dili­gence on these driv­ers. When things are out­sourced, ac­count­abil­ity gets di­luted.

What is worse, Ryan In­ter­na­tional school re­port­edly func­tioned as though it was a nor­mal day. Chil­dren at this age are vul­ner­a­ble, so imag­ine how those boys who dis­cov­ered the child in the wash­room must have coped with their day; word spreads fast through ten­der ears, espe­cially when knowl­edge about life is still hazy. The school is now also guilty of scar­ring many other minds.

Par­ent­ing in the age of mil­len­nial is in it­self a chal­lenge with­out bor­ders, full of dig­i­tal dan­gers and peer pres­sure which has a whole new mean­ing. The least we can ex­pect is that our child is phys­i­cally safe in a san­i­tized en­vi­ron­ment where we pay through our nose, to­tally ac­cept­ing that noth­ing is more de­serv­ing of our hard-earned money.

This mur­der took place just a day af­ter a dis­turb­ing video was do­ing the rounds on most school What­sApp groups. A boy from a pres­ti­gious school near Delhi was slapped so hard by an­other stu­dent that by most ac­counts, his hear­ing in one ear is now im­paired. The school and the boy who gave the slap in­sist that this was part of a slap­ping bet. The way the other boy was cow­er­ing, it didn’t quite look like that, and even if it was, how is fun in school no longer harm­less?

A heart­break­ing post in re­sponse to that in­ci­dent, sup­pos­edly by the boy who was bul­lied, is now be­ing cir­cu­lated. “I am ashamed of be­ing afraid...Many peo­ple have asked me as to why I did not hit back or try and de­fend my­self. The only an­swer I have is ‘fear’, the fear of get­ting hit again and harder.” The back­ground chat­ter of the gang of boys in the video is all about record­ing this in­ci­dent for a Snapchat story. It has be­come so com­mon that no one seems to be ques­tion­ing how these boys had cell phones to record the in­ci­dent. We reap what we sow.

In our 4-year old’s class, two boys had to be sep­a­rated by adults as they went for each other’s throats, one even try­ing to hit the other on the head with the gui­tar ly­ing nearby. To­day, posh schools and fancy cars are sta­tus sym­bols that are flaunted by the kids them­selves. They know no bet­ter, their par­ents sub­sti­tute love with an iPad. What busi­ness does a fa­ther have to drop his child to school in a Mercedes?

There is some­thing rot­ten in our so­ci­ety when pe­dophiles like the Bri­tish man who was re­cently ar­rested in Delhi can’t even spare blind chil­dren. We as par­ents know the dan­ger signs, yet choose to look the other way. Your beau­ti­ful girl with her five dif­fer­ent poses on Face­book may not be pretty just for you. The in­ter­net game “Blue Whale” that ends in sui­cide af­ter 50 days of phys­i­cal harm is a re­al­ity in our coun­try, it no longer hap­pens only in the west.

As par­ents, we have our bat­tles picked out. The health­care sys­tem in re­cent days has made a mock­ery of the lives of lit­tle chil­dren; our ed­u­ca­tion net­work is also on the bor­der­line. When a par­ent sends her child to school, the least she ex­pects is that he will be home back safe and not found in the wash­room with his throat slit, while his lunch­box is still not cold.

The bru­tal killing of seven-year-old Pradyu­man in Ryan In­ter­na­tional School in Gu­ru­gram

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