Schools are chock-block memories for happy summers and life-long friends. However for a 6-year old who was raped at a school in Bangalore has had her experience of school destroyed.
As a child who faced frequent admonitions and never enjoyed school, I understand how some children who need special attention and care are abused and blamed for being a ‘certain way’.
(The 6 year old had been diagnosed with ADHD and the school had initially tried to cover up the issue by saying that the child had a ‘different thinking ability’)
Unlike many others that saw the bright side of school, I saw the political and financially greedy dark side. Schools and colleges have become business and find novel ways to extract money in an IT booming city where money is not a concern. These institutions say they have the best of new-age technologies and collect money but the act of installing CCTV cameras have not helped at the Vibgyor school- the child was raped in a small, dark room. Parents want the best for their children, whether this is to serve the best interest of their child or just to outdo their neighbor is left to their conscience.
In India, education is a privilege. The only schools the poor can afford are government-run which are so crumbly they would put a cookie to shame. But in a culture where we have immense respect for teachers or ‘elite education institutions’ show how they reign supreme in the people’s sub-conscious even though the profession by itself is hardly appreciated. Knowledge is hardly respected unless it comes with a certification and that’s how educational institutions have advertised themselves.
But education is a service. We must be able to take these institutions and teachers in the court of law for dereliction of their duty. Education in India falls under the ‘Consumer Protection Act’, but how many of us have thought or threatened a school or college to go to court if our marks sheet was late, had mistakes, revision of fees without notice or other malpractices we know and see every day?
We keep quiet because we are afraid; to have our prospects damaged, to never get that TC and marks and everything else which may affect our job opportunities. Educational institutions have taken this as an advantage. They get permission to run as a kannada medium school but tell parents they are ICSE certified to parents and charge double- triple the amount of money like the Vibgyor school. (The school should have collected only up to Rs 30 per student per month as fee and Rs 600 as development fee per annum. But parents told TOI the fee collected for three years now started at Rs 70,000 per annum). Often the receipts have no substantial details and are vague. They charge for everything: re-valuation, marks cards, provisional certificates, organizing farewell. The regulatory authorities give their accreditation to whoever pays the highest and the burden is sadly transferred to the students. Teachers take undue advantage of students by flirting or even worse sexual harassment like the principal in Anekal taluk who has around 30 cases of sexual assault pinned on him among other acts of indecency.
Why are extensive background checks not followed by educational institutions? Do we still think that teachers are angels and selfless? In fact to get a recommendation letter from your teachers to apply for higher education is hassle-enough for anybody who has gone through that experience.
If one is applying to a corporate job and the record is found negative, he/she would hardly get a break. Perhaps it’s because teaching is a thankless profession and the number of people opting for an IT job far exceeds that of a teacher. This shows how undesirable the profession has been made, because of the government, educational institutions and the society.
Recently VTU de-recognized three colleges. The fate of the students hangs by the thread. Suggestions about de-recognizing the Vibgyor School was not entertained by the primary and secondary education minister, Kimmane Ratnakar who said: “We’ll wait for the investigation to be completed. Till then, the school will function”. Irrespective of the rape incident, the school must be shut-down for not following government regulations and misleading parents and students. How many times have you experienced harsh punishments both physical and verbal from teachers for doing homework improperly, being an under-performing student, not wearing the shiniest of black shoes and other trivial reasons?
Why are laws pertaining to student protection not stringent in the country? The Vibgyor School has a clause which says that they are not responsible for anything that happens to the child. When asked about this, a teacher said that there are many schools in Bangalore that do the same.The horror of this insensitive remark coming from a teacher is terrifying.
Should students also form bodies like trade-unions to fight these atrocities? The student bodies in educational institutions are as helpful as the beauty pageants in the country. The founder Rustom Kerawalla has around 20 schools around India and was taken in for questioning as he was not available in Bangalore. He conveniently blamed the principal and said nobody informed him. The slew of transfer of police officers in the investigation, the political backing supporting the school, people who are arrested and then released make all this suspicious. In fact if the principal Alistair M Laporte had not cold-shouldered the parents of the rape survivor when they approached to enquire, they wouldn’t have gone to the police and we might not have heard about this issue.
Protesting to hang the rapist is not enough, the school must be shut down, educational institutions found not following guidelines must be shut down and their license revoked or we risk having our educational institutions breeding corruption and teaching power reigns supreme.