National Concern

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 21 Jan 2018 10:35:08













The recent accident in the school bus in Indore that killed five innocent children is an eye-opener, which has raised more questions regarding safety in our schools than we can find answers for.

Children’s safety in schools is a contentious and complicated issue that is not just limited to Delhi or NCR but is a national concern. Safety doesn’t just cover fire hazards and unsafe buildings but also school buses and administrative involvement and alertness.

In order to ensure the safety of students, the Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR) recently directed Education Department, all civic bodies and Delhi Cantonment Board to examine life and fire safety provisions in schools under their jurisdiction.

The Commission asked all agencies concerned to submit a status report on the issue to it. Apart from this, the DCPCR has recommended to the Education Directorate to rectify the loopholes and issue explicit instructions regarding shifting of buildings of schools that National Building Code (2005) must be applied on all schools.

The move is aimed at ensuring all fire norms are in place in all schools running in the national capital in view of students’ safety. DCPCR has asked to ensure that all schools are rigorously examined with regard to life and fire safety provision. The DCPCR has sought compliance report from the Directorate of Education in this regard on or before January 31.

Children’s safety in schools is a contentious and complicated issue that is not just limited to Delhi or NCR but is a national concern. Safety doesn’t just cover fire hazards and unsafe buildings but also school buses and administrative involvement and alertness.

The recent accident of the school bus in Indore that killed five children is an eye opener, which has raised more questions regarding safety in our schools than we can find answers for. Thousands of loopholes and lapses were unearthed in the probe that followed the incident and several heads rolled even as skeletons tumbled out of the cupboard.

But the findings did not come as a shocking surprise to many. It is almost a known thing that the powerful and moneyed in our country have the entire unstated license to bend the laws and bypass the laid down norms as per their convenience.

The school is a moneyed school and its access to the corridors of power and influence is an unofficial truth. It could therefore easily ignore the safety and precautionary norms.

Students’ safety was never paramount, as was clear in the initial investigations; the buses were old, the speed governors tampered, the drivers were found to be pressured for time etc. Schools charge a hefty sum of money from parents but they use little of it in security of their children, while extracting as much profit as possible is the sole motto.

Most schools belong to big businessmen, political leaders or even goons, which is why the police and guardians are scared of opening their mouth against them. The lapses are ignored and illegalities are hushed. This is the cumulative effect of the wrong practices of years that end up in gory accidents and catastrophic implications for kids. Unfortunately, we don’t learn from our mistakes and the bigwigs just don’t care to learn. For them the life of ordinary people is insignificant. Every other day there is some or the other accident in one school or the other in some part of the country. Several times children have died in accidents when school vehicles carrying them have been mowed by speeding trains at unmanned level crossings.

Thousands of kids are abused physically and even sexually by school teachers, seniors or other staff and most go unreported for understandable reasons. Most schools don’t even have CCTV cameras on their campus and their vehicles are not even fitted with a first aid box or fire extinguishers. No one bothers unless something happens. What do we wait for? How long will this culture of negligence, apathy and ignorance continue? When will parents speak out for the right of their children for whom they are paying through their nose?

When will we have a responsible, accountable and caring school management everywhere? Why doesn’t the civil administration act in an honest and ethical way? It is a question of precious lives of brilliant minds who would build the nation of our dreams!

How can we compromise on their safety and well being? Schools are considered second homes where children spend eight hours a day for 15 formative years of their life and teachers are considered next to parents. If children are not safe under their own teachers inside their own campus and on their own vehicles, who could we trust? Safety measures don’t take much to be put in place. It only needs vision, awareness and honesty of schools’ management. Monitoring and accountability is just one aspect of the puzzle, which certainly is important. But beyond that, the greater question is, can human beings be so irresponsible, greedy and unconcerned that they don’t even shrink at the thought of children dying due to their negligence? It is always difficult to check each and every school vehicle on the roads and every school campus worth its name in such a vast country like India.

There cannot be a synchronised action, nor can there be a time-bound conviction of the guilty due to legal loopholes and the tardiness of the process. Corruption, officialdom, political influence and police botch-ups are bound to complicate any process of tracking, probing or convicting such negligence. In such a situation it comes down to the diktats of individual conscience and wisdom. If the people who run the show are debauched and immoral, if money making spree guides their life’s values, other things are bound to lose priority.

We are a leading country in freak accident fatalities. Not an inch of land is safe. There is no social security cover or guarantee of life on any given day.
Each one of us is vulnerable - at a risk - from undisciplined traffic, from corrupt, insensitive and high-handed police, from looters and rapists to dilapidated bridges and rickety public transport, from fire hazards to stampedes and riots and unethical and unqualified doctors fleecing us. The underlying factor behind all these is the same - corruption, negligence, ignorance and immorality.

The national culture has become rotten and unproductive and our mindset regressive and immoral. Unless we learn to value human lives and find out ways to promote human intellectual and technical progress in a conducive atmosphere, safeguarding their basic interests, we are bound to fail as a nation.

By the way, if we fail even to take care of our children and nip the possibilities in the bud, then there cannot be a greater sin and disservice to the nation we are doing. We are snuffing out the potentialities of the country itself.