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Safety in schools

From the digital divide to health issues, to the death of a young student – whatever be it – each family had a problem to share.

Statesman News Service | New Delhi |

The current batch of class 12 students has faced circumstances like none before. The pandemic began when these students were writing class 10 examinations around March 2020. Most of their crucial years of study were lost in struggles to tame something new called online education.

From the digital divide to health issues, to the death of a young student – whatever be it – each family had a problem to share. Many people think because of Covid-19 and a flurry of in-house directives post reopening of the classes in 2021, the focus of schools has drifted from security and safety of children while they are in school and during transit.

Incidents of recent origin like a wall collapse and the death of a student linked to school transportation could not have happened otherwise. Perhaps sensitisation and orientation of school staff, including non-teaching staff, need to be factored in as well.

The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) has recently shown interest in this matter and advised appropriate steps to be taken to prevent untoward incidents like these when the safety and security of school-goers get compromised.

Organisations like the NCPCR should also take up and issue guidance on fatal classroom punishments at least those that have been reported in the media. Such news items have a tendency to be brushed aside by whosoever is concerned.

Punishment meted out by a hard-tasking teacher as happened with a leading English medium school in Gaya district in Bihar around March this year and briefly reported in local media, stands out as an example.

Most Covid-related restrictions have been relaxed except for face masks and physical distancing. According to Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, a leading epidemiologist, mask-wearing for school-going children should be voluntary and exclusively determined by parents or the child.

School transport departments in states and Union Territories would do well if they conduct safety audits of buses, minibusses, minivans, autos, and any other vehicle used to ferry children to school and back home.