I remember, it was some 21 years back, and I was out on an official field visit. Back home there was Manisha along with Putput who was then in UKG. My going out on fieldwork was common at that time, and we had made it a point that we talk in the evenings. However, one day the phone rang in the afternoon, and I immediately realised that there was something wrong.
Yes, it was a panic call from Manisha. Traumatised by the incidence she was however not able to talk for long, or communicate what she intended. I could however gather that Putput has met with an accident while at school, and she was rushing him to the clinic.
I later gathered that while playing at school Putput somehow slipped, and fell down. His tongue was thus slit by the impact of the face hitting the desk, and he started to bleed profusely. His teacher, rather than informing the authorities, or parents, providing first aid, and of course referring a doctor boarded him on an auto rickshaw, and he was dispatched home.
When asked the reason for coming early Putput only told about the incidence, and it was obvious for Manisha to panic at the sight of the blood oozing out of his mouth. His tongue was however sutured at the clinic, and he was safe.
Don’t you feel that the teacher acted irresponsibility?
She should have informed the parents, provided first aid, and rushed him to the doctor.
In case of some of you, the school administration might have responded more responsibly but then, many might well connect with me.
Not really intending to debate on the response of the school, this narration is to highlight that children are exposed to many hazards while they are at school; almost for 6–7 hours every single day. One fourth of the day is really quite a long; shouldn’t you as a responsible parent be concerned?
School and school children; both are highly vulnerable
Routine accidents apart, schools across the world have often been impacted by major disaster incidences.
Do you really know that as many as 7669 schools were damaged in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), and North West Frontier Province (NWFP) in 7.6 magnitude Muzaffarabad Earthquake of October 8, 2005, and 5690 (74.2%) of these were primary and middle schools. 18095 school children and 853 teachers were killed in this earthquake which amounts to 22% of the total casualties. Imagine the trauma of the survivors wherein an entire generation was wiped out by few seconds of ground shaking.
Situation in 7.9 magnitude Sichuan Earthquake of May 12, 2008 was no different. Almost 7000 schools collapsed in this earthquake that killed 10000 school children which is 11.5% of the total casualties.
If you remember, it was a first grade teacher Yuan Wentin aged 26 who emerged as a real life heroine of Sichuan. When the earthquake struck, she rushed to save her stunned students from the classroom on the third floor. She managed to save most of them; the building however collapsed while some were still in there. She however did not give up even at the last moment of her life, and used her body to shield the students from the falling concrete.
Earthquakes do certainly have long recurrence period, but then are schools and school children safe from other hazards? There have been a number of major fire incidences.
There was massive fire during Annual Day function of DAV Public School at Mandi Dabwali in Sirsa district on December 23, 1995. 170 school children were amongst 400 killed in this incidence.
Then it was the thatched roof of the Lord Krishna Middle School at Kumbakonam in the Thanjavur district that caught fire on July 16, 2004. 94 school children of the primary section were burnt to death in this incidence.
The scenes of children jumping from an ablaze terrace of a shopping complex in Surat might still be alive in your memories. It was on May 24, 2019 when a commercial complex in Sarthana Jagatnaka area caught fire, and engulfed Smart Design Studio, a coaching centre, at the third floor. 22 students; 18 girls and 4 boys, aged between 15 and 22 died in this incidence; 16 due asphyxiation, 3 due to injuries as they jumped off the terrace, and 3 due to the fire-burns.
The hazards are too many; a primary school at Sumgarh in Bageshwar district was overrun by landslide debris on August 18, 2010. 18 school children, all below the age of 10 were killed in this incidence.
Then there are numerous instances of students getting washed off in mountain torrents while trying to cross these to reach school, particularly during the monsoon period.
Incidences that often go unreported
Besides routine accidents school children are often traumatized by harassment of various kind at school, together with bullying, and peer pressure. Though not often reported, you would agree that these incidences are getting all the more common. The victims often don’t share these incidences even with their parents fearing further bullying, stigmatization, and ridicule.
School children are highly traumatised by all these incidences that leave a lasting imprint on their subconscious mind. Studies reveal these having distinct adverse impact on their mental and psychological development. In case counselling is not resorted to these might have distinct adverse impact lasting the entire life.
Only you can make a difference
Many a times parents tend to ignore some incidences as being trivial issues.
But are these really trivial issues?
Don’t you feel that as a responsible parent it is our duty to oversee if the school authorities are taking adequate measures to rule out possibility of such incidences, and are better prepared to deal responsibly when such unfortunate incidences do take place.
I am sure you as a responsible parent keep track of the progress of your daughter, not only in academics but also in extracurricular activities she routinely engages.
But what about her psychological well being?
Is that not really important for you?
Have you tried ever, to figure out if she is facing harassment, or bullying while at school?
School really is not all about academics. Then why are you always so obsessed over her grades, her teachers, her examinations, and her tuitions.
Have you ever taken a bit of interest in knowing if the school building where she stays almost 6 – 7 hours every single day except holidays is earthquake safe? Does her classroom has adequate exits to accommodate panic rush during any emergency?
We were just reviewing previous fire accidents in schools. Are you sure her classroom has functional fire extinguishers, and someone around is trained in operating these? Are you sure that the school has been audited for fire safety?
Is the school undertaking some efforts to make students aware of emergency response measures, first aid, and the like? Does the school has a plan for tackling emergencies, and have some mock exercises been organized in the past to test, validate, and update this plan?
What measures does the school undertake to ensure that your daughter is not harassed, or bullied while at school? Does the school resort to CCTV surveillance to keep track of student behaviour?
The Supreme Court, government and others have already put in place guidelines, rules and policies to ensure that the schools provide safe environment to ensure holistic growth of the students. But all these have to be implemented, and someone around h
as to ensure their compliance. The state does not really have adequate resources to oversee so many schools.
But the, as a responsible citizen you too have some obligations and responsibilities.
Moreover, stakes are the highest for you as your daughter is a beneficiary.
So, can’t you be a little vigilant and keep reminding school administration what all they are required to do? How the things can be improved?
If you think speaking out alone would not be appropriate, you can formulate a pressure group of parents, and put forth your concerns during parent teacher meetings. Motivated by you other parents would certainly join you and school administration would be left with no choice but to comply.
You should always remember that for your little daughter you are a hero, and so, you have to put forth sound examples of integrity, and conviction.
So act like a real life Hero, stand up, and speak out fearlessly for the safety of your daughter, and always be besides her when she needs your support, and guidance.