In a meeting held on Monday, principals of private schools in the UT objected to the first point of the policy for safe transportation of students, which states school authorities will be held responsible in case of any untoward incident and cannot absolve themselves of ensuring the safety of schoolchildren.
This point stands regardless of whether the bus belongs to the school or the contractor.
In a meeting chaired by DPI, schools, UT, school authorities expressed their concern. Several other important issues were also taken up during the meeting including the inclusion of transgender attendants, after the high court raised concern regarding the same, increasing bus fares and dengue precautionary measures.
These measures include carrying a dengue home card and wearing full-sleeve shirts.
Principals say not a business deal for them
St John’s High School principal Kavita C Das said she was not comfortable with the onus lying on schools. “We are here to facilitate the parents in providing quality service to their kids. But, how does that imply that we can be held responsible for something that we are doing, going beyond our primary duty of providing education to children. It isn’t a business deal as the money goes directly into the account of the contractors so why must we be penalised.” She added that it should be the joint responsibility of transporters, parents as well as schools.
“Unless all buses belong to the school itself this makes no sense. This is definitely not the case as 99% of schools have hired contractors in Chandigarh,” added Das.
HS Mamik, president of Independent Association of Schools (ISA), Chandigarh, said, “This means we are only looking at safety of 50% students who come to school by bus. What about the remaining 50% that come by auto-rickshaws or by other modes of transportation.
Will the school authorities have to look into that as well?”she said. HS Mamik said representatives would be sent to court to detail apprehensions.
“We will send our representatives to the court as told to the DPI so that we can raise our concern during the next hearing which has been scheduled for September 30,” HS Mamik added.
Transgender attendants to be included in policy
After the Punjab and Haryana high court asked UT for an explanation for not including transgender attendants in the policy for safe transportation, the education department and State Transport Authority officials had said they would consider the same. Most schools claimed that they were comfortable if transgender attendants were included as an option in the policy. STA joint secretary Amit Talwar said, “Post the high court’s instruction to consider the same, we will add a couple of things in the policy which has been approved by the Governor but is yet to be notified.”
DPI (schools) Rupinderjit Singh Brar confirmed the same saying transgender as a gender category would be included as an option along with females in the attendant category. Talwar added, “We never excluded it but now will mention it in the policy if that helps.” He further stated that the STA was also looking into the court’s observation about CCTV camera footage being monitored by school authorities regularly. School principals present said they were okay with transgender attendants as an option as long as it wasn’t made mandatory to hire only them.
Increasing bus fares also addressed The DPI (schools) also took up the issue of increasing bus fares with school heads post the installation of CCTV cameras, GPS, female attendants.
“He expressed concern in increase in fares by Rs 50 at one school and by Rs 300 at another. He urged schools to rationalize it,” said Das. School heads said that it was subjective as some were running more buses than others and some covered more distance.
Key points discussed
Safe transportation policy discussed with school principals
Discussion on transgender attendants and if schools were open to the same
Increasing bus fares addressed.
Schools reminded about the fresh instructions issued by the education department like dengue precautionary measures