Huge chaos was witnessed at NIBM Road’s Vibgyor School on Monday when students and their parents were asked to return as a local political outfit suddenly announced a ‘school bandh’. On Monday morning, activists of Maharashtra Navnirman Vidyarthi Sena (MNVS) put up boards outside at least 10 schools across the city, locking gates of a few, declaring a ‘school bandh andolan’.
MNVS claimed that the protest has been launched following several complaints by parents of repeated fee hikes.
Those shut are among the 18 schools against whom complaints were filed by parents. The Divisional Fee Regulation Committee is currently hearing the complaints. Meanwhile, even as most schools called in the police or removed the hoardings to continue with the classes as usual, clashes broke out at Vibgyor School.
While the school authorities had called in local police officials and took off the hoardings, parents were nevertheless asked to return home and the school declared a day off. Irked, parents said the protest should not have been carried out during school hours, adding that a prior notice was necessary.
Jumana Gari, principal, Vibgyor High, NIBM Road, said, “This morning, a group of men landed outside our school gate and forcibly put up a banner, stating ‘3 July Shala bandh’. Despite our security guards trying to stop them, they locked up the gate from the outside. They also started commanding our staff members to not allow students to attend the school today.”
“Immediately, we informed all our buses and students to wait safely at an area, away from the school gate. We also informed the police and upon their arrival, these men fled. Once the premises were safe, the secondary students were brought in. Gauging a safety concern, the pre-primary and primary sections were given a holiday. The police were very prompt and supportive throughout the incident,” he added.
Recalling the confusion on Monday, Bela Kodnaney, parent of a secondary school student who had sent her son to school with a friend in his car, said she came to know of the chaos only when her friend brought the children back home. “I was told that they were letting in only the children coming by a bus and the children who had come by car were initially asked to turn back and later given a choice. I think it is the most rubbish way to protest, whatever be the cause. Imagine those students with working parents, who have no one to pick them up. They would return to empty houses with no food or supervision since their parents aren’t aware that the kids are coming back. These activists are risking children’s safety,” she complained.
Another parent, Anjana Tandon, said she had to take a day off from work since her daughter who studies in Class VII was sent back from school. “For safety reasons, children who went by bus sat in school though I heard no classes were conducted. I went to drop my daughter and the situation was so scary that I brought her back. Since there was no one to look after her and this was a last-minute protest, I was forced to take leave. While I agree that fees have drastically increased but activists should not do anything that puts students at risk or inconvenience,” she said.
The activists denied any risk to students. Kalpesh Yadav, secretary, MNVS, said banners were put up before school hour began and activists left as soon as children entered premises. “We ensured no activists protested in front of students,” he said.