Safety in Indian Schools

Last week we were informed of a horrible accident that took place at a well known Gurgaon play school. On that fateful day, two weeks after a boy had been admitted into the school, the two year old boy had a nasty accident and suffered severe facial injuries resulting in a badly bruised face and the loss of a tooth. While injuries can happen at school or for that matter anywhere, what is most surprising is the response of the school officials who called the incident “normal” and “minor”.

I am not really certain by what measure can an injury of this type be described as “normal” or “minor”. The word normal is used to describe something that happens regularly or is widely prevalent. The word minor describes something of no or low consequence, and therefore no corrective action or precaution is necessary or desired. Do I hear the school as saying that a loss of a tooth by a student is matter of routine at this educational institution? Do I also hear that the school thinks that a 2 year old’s (or for that matter any child’s) face being bruised black and blue is insignificant and is part of business as usual?

If the answer to both the questions is yes, then I think that this educational institution needs to be closed down by the authorities, with immediate effect.

The fact of the matter is that most schools in India do not pay any attention to student safety. There does not seem to be any requirements, regulations, standards that prescribed a minimum level of safety that a school should implement. Six months ago, my wife and I visited a number of schools (including the school that is the topic of this blog), for our 2 ½ year old. Having lived overseas for over 10 years, and having become acutely sensitised to safety standards in anything and everything that forms a part of his environment, we were shocked to see the apathy of schools towards implementing, what would be considered even basic safety measures in most countries, overseas.

We even came across one school (an equally reputed play school as is being discussed here and which has built for itself a successful brand franchise) that had installed in its garden flood lights to light its façade. This garden was also the main playground where children of ages 3 and up were designated to play and had all the children’s play equipment neatly laid out. The floodlights had been joined to a lamppost within the same playground, with the wiring exposed to natural elements and for the children to touch and pull. I am not sure why anyone would want to send his / her ward to this school or how this school is being allowed to operate. Another school, we visited, had stored toxic materials used to clean toilets within easy reach of the kids. Yet another exclusive Delhi based day school, as part of its counter measures against the swine flu, has introduced disposable paper towels for use by children in the toilets. However, earlier plea’s by parents to have the school introduce paper towels in the bathrooms had fallen on deaf ears. Why is it that our schools need a major scare or catastrophe before they act (Last week, the Delhi based school was closed for a week due to swine flu)?

Schools in Canada (and in other western countries), the country that I lived in for the best part of the last decade, have been closed down for offences much smaller than these. I know of a school that lost its license to operate daycare due to negligence, all because of a single nail protruding from the walls (in a part of the daycare not frequented by kids), which was considered injurious to the students.

We did eventually admit our child to a play-school in Gurgaon. One of the biggest considerations for putting him in that school were the visible efforts made by the school’s administrators to child proof the school area.

It is time that we start prioritising the safely of our children and make conscious efforts towards it. If certain schools choose not to do participate, then they should be forced to shut shop; and in certain circumstances, the administrators held liable for injuries suffered by our children.

Jaago India Jaago