Mustakeem Ahmad’s case is a wake up call for all school authorities that have been neglecting the guideline to check classrooms to see no child is locked inside before a school shuts for the day.
The civic agency might have suspended the principal, teacher, and the security guard, but certainly more needs to be done.
“A similar case was reported decades ago from Bihar where the student was locked up accidentally in his classroom during the summer vacation,” said Shyama Chona, former principal of Delhi Public School, RK Puram.
“His body was found one-and-half months later. Schools need to realize that their job is not merely to teach but to take care of students too.”
In February 2008, a nine-year-old boy was accidentally locked up in his classroom in Orissa’s Kendrapada district for about six hours after school closed.
All schools across India have to mandatorily check classrooms before they shut for the day, but it is rarely followed. “The class teacher is responsible in this case. As part of training, all teachers are instructed to check classrooms after students leave for the day,” said Prithviraj Sawhney, chairman, MCD’s education committee.
Following Mustakeem’s case, the MCD has decided to start special training sessions for newly-recruited teachers.
“In this case the teacher was new and didn’t realize that it is the classteacher’s responsibility to check the classroom before shutting it for the day,” added Sawhney.
“The security guard is also supposed to carry out a thorough check before locking the building. We’ll now conduct special classes for principals too.”
Prominent private schools in the city, however, maintain they follow the drill judiciously.
“We have to follow a protocol under which the attendant has to check each and every classroom and desk while cleaning it after school hours. This exercise goes on for more than two hours so that such mishaps can be avoided,” said SL Jain, chairman, National Progressive School Alliance, an association over 100 private schools.
‘I kept crying for my mother...’
The four walls of his classroom will haunt six-year-old Mustakeem Ahmad for a long time.
A class II student of a school in Bijwasan run by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), Mustakeem was locked up accidentally in his classroom for a night by his teacher and attendant.
“The weather was quite pleasant so I fell asleep. When I woke up it was pitch dark and I started looking for my friends but no one was there,” said Mustakeem.
“I tried opening the door but it was locked. I banged on it many times but no one came to help me.”
The six-year-old sat on the window sill and cried out for help the entire night but the guard who was supposed to be on night duty had left the school premises after locking the gate of the building.
“I was very hungry and had to survive on the leftover water in my bottle. I couldn’t sleep the entire night and kept crying for my mother and sister.”
He is refusing to go to school now. “They might lock me again if I go there.”