The Badlapur-based school, which the four-year-old girl attended and in whose premises she was raped by a school bus cleaner on September 6, refuses to accept responsibility for the incident, instead pointing fingers at the bus operator.
“The bus has been on contract basis with the school for 10 years.
The driver and bus attendant were appointed by the contactor,” the school principal said. “School authorities never knew them personally.”
The principal blamed the contractor for not ensuring that a woman attendant was present in the bus.
“I am aware of norms that a woman attendant must be in the bus. Since it’s the contractor who appoints the driver, cleaner and attendant, we never interfered with it. We will look into this in the future.”
School authorities have not yet determined what action to take against the contractor, nor have they decided how they will supervise the buses.
More than 300 students – half of whom are girls – attend the pre-primary section of the English-medium school. The school has three buses, but none have women attendants.
The principal on Sunday also refuted allegations that the school management was informed about the rape.
“I was not aware of the incident. We are ready to do whatever is needed. The girl is our responsibility,” he said.
Following the incident, irate residents damaged the contractor’s buses.
The bus owner said he is shocked as there had been no previous complaints against the accused, Sandeep Kerve, who had been working as a cleaner since the past one year.
“No investigation was carried out before appointing the driver and cleaner, but they are local residents,” he said.
Both the Regional Transport Office and the police are clear that the responsibility of ensuring there is a woman attendant in the bus rests with the school and the contractor.
“This responsibility is with both the school and the contractor,” said VR Gujarati, chief, Kalyan RTO.
On Sunday, Thane police commissioner KP Raghuvanshi said: “When it comes to the safety of children, there should be accountability on the part of schools.”
(The school, its principal and the bus contractor have not been named to protect the identity of the child.)