School buses have long been considered the safest mode for ferrying children. But a few recent incidents have parents worried if their chosen mode is as safe as they always thought it to be.
The alleged molestation of a four-year-old girl in a moving bus of Presidium school has exposed the vulnerability of children to untoward incidents after parents see them off in school buses.
In May 2016, seven-year-old girl, Jiya, died after a speeding car ran over her while crossing a road near her home in Sector 4 area of Gurgaon. Jiya was a Class 3 student of Ryan International School, Gurgaon.
“Our children are not safe even in school buses. The risk persists despite schools taking hefty fees from us in the name of safety,” said a parent.
The sad state of affairs continues despite the Haryana government bringing in a policy “Surakshit School Vahan Policy” in 2012 to ensure that the Supreme Court guidelines for safer transportation of school-going children are followed in letter and spirit.
In March 2016, the Gurgaon administration directed private schools to adhere to the policy, but it still remains a distant dream. Deputy Commissioner TL Satyaprakash had then warned schools to fulfil the norms by April 1 or face action.
As for action, it was in May this year when regional transport authority (RTA) carried out a campaign in the city for ensuring implementation of the policy. The campaign was suspended after the summer breaks.
“We checked buses of ten schools and even fined a few for violation of the norms. The offender schools paid the fine,” an official said.
The Presidium school incident also sparked outrage on social media with many tagging chief minister seeking action against the school
“Can we ask administration to cancel this school license..... Let’s raise our voice against this.... Have tweet to commissioner and CM hope they revert back..,(SIC)” wrote a parent Tripti Singh on the Facebook page ‘Gurgaon Parents for Better Education’.
Some parents expressed hope that schools would learn lessons from the incidents like these in ensuring that the employees are verified before hiring.
“Hoping incidents like these can be averted in near future and the schools take necessary steps required for verification of every staff member who comes in direct contact with students on a daily basis.
The challenge for the schools is how to keep a check on the fourth class staff hired.
“Whatever happened with the girl is unfortunate. But we cannot just pin the blame on school. It is indeed difficult for us to be sure that we have hired the right person as drivers, attendants or other class 4 staff. I intend to conduct a meeting with all the schools to look into the matter and chalk out a solution,” said Col (retired) Pratap Singh, president, Haryana Progressive School Alliance.
Deputy commissioner, TL Satyaprakash said that administration would take action against anyone fpund guilty for violating the norms for ensuring safety of school children.
“Police is investigating the case and the accused has been arrested. We will try that whosoever is responsible is punished. The administration is serious in ensuring the safety of school going kids,” he added
-CCTV cameras, speed governors and GPS enabled school buses is a must
-Presence of a conductor and a woman attendant in the bus
-Buses should be painted in yellow with a strip of dark blue
-Those accused in sexual harassment cases should not be hired for any position in school.
-Drivers should have at least five years of experience and buses should not carry students more than the capacity
-Those selected should give a signed affidavit saying they are not accused in any offence under POCSO Act, Juvenile Justice Act, etc. Information about his background should also be mentioned.
-Police verification of contractual staff is a must.