Parent-teacher associations (PTAs) across Mumbai have raised concerns over safety of children during school trips after eight students and two teachers from Gundecha Education Academy, Kandivli, were injured in a bus accident on Tuesday while returning from an adventure camp in Igatpuri.
Associations such as the Forum for Fairness in Education and PTA United Forum said that there is a pressing need for the state government to come up with safety norms for schools taking students on school trips and excursions.
In November, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) had issued guidelines for schools while taking students on study tours. But there are no guidelines in place for other boards.
“Without any policy or legislation in place, schools cannot be held accountable for children’s safety during school tours. Moreover, parents are asked to sign undertakings relieving the school of any responsibility in case of a mishap,” said Jayant Jain, president, Forum for Fairness.
In absence of guidelines, schools are blindly trusting private tour operators with the safety of students during school trips, said experts. Schools do not bother to personally check the condition of the buses that are arranged by tour operators, nor do they check the credentials of the drivers, said Anil Garg, president, SBOA. “From organising buses to planning itinerary, private operators are entrusted with everything.”
Garg said that often these tour operators do not even use their own buses or drivers. “The schools end up trusting a particular operator, because they have worked with them in the past. Schools need to check each and every aspect of the trip even if it is a known tour operator,” said Garg.
Parents also complained that teachers travel in separate vehicles during school trips and so there is no one to monitor the bus carrying children. “Teachers should travel with the students in the same bus and not in other vehicles. It should be the teacher’s responsibility to monitor the speed limit,” said Debarati Acharya, a parent, whose daughter is in St. Gregorios High School, Chembur.
“Parents should do their own research about the tour operators, check their track record, the school PTA must demand to see the driver’s licence,” said Arundhati Chavan, president, PTA United Forum.