Published: 30th September 2019
Is ensuring students’ safety a school’s duty? The debate is still on
The list of schools audited include well-established ‘old names’ and apparently not the modern corporate-type schools which attach the ‘International’ tag to their names
We must respect the past and mistrust the present, if we wish to provide for the safety of the future generations
— Joseph Joubert (1754-1814), French moralist and essayist
The above statement has universal application, especially for school managements who are responsible for ensuring the safety of thousands of students. In the US, student safety is a big issue due to the numerous shooting incidents in schools. Parents have limited options here, like providing bulletproof backpacks. But not much attention is given to the responsibilities of the school management. Against this background, it is interesting to highlight the shortcomings brought out by a safety audit reported by Sana Shakil in The New Indian Express (16/9/19) and excerpted here.
Some of the most prestigious schools in the country do not provide secure spaces for their students, safety audits conducted by the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) have revealed. From an inadequate number of CCTV cameras to the lack of background verifications for security guards, CISF has pointed out many glaring omissions that have put the lives of students from nine schools across the country at risk. Following the murder of seven-year-old Pradyuman Thakur at a school in Gurgaon in 2017, the paramilitary force had written to various schools, offering consultancy services through a security audit. Nearly two dozen schools agreed to the proposal and CISF conducted the audit at nine of them.
The audit results found glaring lapses. After having analysed the entry and exit points at the schools, CISF found that CCTV cameras were not installed at proper locations, some schools did not have enough cameras and some needed to improve the quality of cameras to enable them to recognise individuals and vehicles. The absence of these measures shows that unauthorised entry of individuals and vehicles, and the smuggling of objectionable items is a big possibility in schools, making students susceptible to threats. The audit report also said that the cameras should cover entry and exit gate corridors, lobbies and parameters of the building but this was missing in most schools. The absence of security gadgets and insufficient lighting has also been flagged as a concern. The force, in its reports, has further pointed out the lack of fire safety measures in some schools, such as the absence of fire hydrants.
The list of schools audited include well-established ‘old names’ and apparently not the modern corporate-type schools which attach the ‘International’ tag to their names. Two schools that responded to the reporter said that they have undertaken upgradations of their security systems. From increasing the number of CCTVs from 565 to 755 to raising the height of the boundary walls, the schools cited many such measures being undertaken. It is creditable that the responding schools had shown concern for the safety of their wards and some have already taken the action route — and others may follow their lead or take a cue from this column.