Like most working couples in the city, Krupali and Sachin Uchil don’t have a lot of free time. But, they make it a point to take time out from the tutorial class they run near their Mulund home to drop off and pick up their daughters from school every day.
“They don’t take the school bus. I never considered it safe, and after reading recent reports on incidents on school buses, I’m glad I never did,” said Krupali, 40, who takes turns with her husband to drive to the school, halfan-hour away every day.
The couple also makes it a point to discuss news reports on child abuse with their daughters, aged 12 and 15. “We believe it is important to talk to children so they are more aware of the world they live in. We want our children to know they can talk to us about anything,” said Krupali.
Amid reports of crimes and mishaps involving students — from a school van driver and helper molesting schoolgirls, to three schoolboys drowning in a river after they were allegedly beaten up by their teachers — worried parents are working independently and with school administrations, to ensure children’s safety.
Schools, for instance, now have closedcircuit television cameras on their buses, in classrooms and corridors, with the feed being relayed to the school administrator or principal’s office.
“Many untoward situations can be avoided because of CCTV surveillance,” said Father Francis Swamy, chairman of the Jesuit School Board. “If people know t hey are being watched, they will perhaps refrain from acting inappropriately.”
At SKI Jain International School, Marine Lines, apart from CCTVs, teachers are instructed to closely watch the behaviour of students and support staff.
At RN Podar School, Santacruz (West), CCTVs have been installed in all classrooms as precautionary measure. “A school is a home away from home, so it becomes our responsibility to build a comfortable environment for students,” said principal Avnita Bir.
“We also talk to students regularly about being alert and aware of their surroundings, and the people around them. We talk to them about ‘danger signs’ and try to explain how they can spot suspicious behaviour. We encourage them to speak up about any ‘odd’ experiences they may have had.”
For parents, it has become more important than ever to be alert and more involved. “I never sign consent forms my children bring home from school blindly,” said Krupali. “I cannot deny my daughters the right to go on a picnic with their peers, so next to my signature on the consent form, I add ‘under your care and guidance’, before handing it over to the school authorities.”