The deaths of Akkriti Bhatia’s in an upmarket Delhi school and that of Shanno, a municipal corporation school student, recently has once again opened the debate on whether our education system is doing the best by our children. Akkriti, a Class XII student of Modern School, Vasant Vihar, in the Capital, died of an asthma attack on Monday. She was at the school when she suffered the attack and was given preliminary medical help, but died before she could reach the hospital.
These deaths demonstrate that irrespective of which end of the economic spectrum you are on and which school you send your children to — State-run or private schools — both are equally at sea when it comes to medical emergencies or understanding special requirements of students. Latest reports suggest that Shanno was dyslexic and the teacher failed to recognise it. Instead, she was punished for being a slow learner.
The Delhi government, which is supposed to keep an eye on all educational institutions, seems to swing into action only when a tragedy strikes. It is now working on guidelines on medical preparedness in all schools. Till now, there was no health policy for private schools. Akkriti’s parents’ desire to have heads roll is understandable. But having said that, it was incumbent upon them, given Akkriti’s medical history, to have checked whether the school was equipped with the appropriate medical infrastructure and personnel to deal with an emergency. In Shanno’s case a callous and ill-prepared school system worked against the interest of the child. In Akkriti’s case, the blame must rest with all the parties concerned.
Many of us are taken with the fripperies that posh schools offer like designer school uniforms, air-conditioned buses and horse-riding classes. But we miss the wood for the trees. Paying exorbitant fees is not enough. Parents have to be far more interactive to ensure that schools are accountable and that their children get a holistic education in a nurturing environment.