THE murder of a 7-year-old boy in the toilet of Gurgaon’s Ryan International School has sparked a nationwide debate on the safety of school children inside the campus. While a lot is being discussed about the safety of students in private schools — with demands ranging from CCTV cameras to RFID tags for students — the civic bodies don’t seem to have done much to keep their students safe.
A Pune Newsline team visited eight civic schools run by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC), and saw that even in schools that had gone digital and had smart labs, basic security facilities — a guard on campus, restrictions on the entry of strangers and a woman attendant in toilet blocks — were missing.
Sant Gadage Baba School, Kondhwa, PMC
Security: There are six primary and secondary schools — Marathi, English and Urdu medium — operating from the same premises, with nearly 4,500 students. When a correspondent visited the school on Friday, no security guard was deployed at the gate, which was open as the primary school was getting over for the day. Several parents were seen inside the campus. There are no CCTV cameras on campus. After an attempted abduction took place a few months ago, two woman security guards were posted, but for 4,500 students, two guards are not enough.
toilets: There is just one toilet block for girls, located at the entry to the main compound, part of which is secured by waist-length grills. The girls’ toilet shares a common wall with the boys’ toilet. Staffers say that there is another toilet at the back but no one uses it due to its unhygienic condition. Teachers say they have no toilets and they have to use the watchman’s bathroom.
Authorities say: Only one headmaster, Shabhana Shaikh from the Urdu section, was present on campus. Shaikh admitted that parents often come inside the classrooms, to drop and pick up the students, as the gate is often unmanned. “In this crowd, how can we know who is a parent and who is not? We teachers are in the class all the time. We need CCTV cameras and more toilet blocks,” she said.
Maharshi Harkadas Primary School, Bhavani Peth, PMC
Security: One English school, with nearly 650 students, and one Marathi school with nearly 250 students operate from the same premises in shifts. There was no security guard at the entrance. No one tried to stop and question the Pune Newsline team as it entered the campus. There are no CCTV cameras and no one to monitor students after school ends for the day.
toilets: The girl’s toilet, located at the entrance, shares a wall with the boys’ toilet and has no woman attendant. Some students complained that outsiders also used their toilets.
Authorities say: Principal Ruby Shaikh admitted that outsiders do enter the campus, especially on days when the school is rented out for events. “On weekends, they come by the afternoon and leave their cooking material here. Since we don’t have sanction for security staff, I have now deputed teachers to monitor the toilet and campus area on a rotational basis,” she said.
Madhyamik School, Keshavnagar, Chinchwad, PCMC
Security: A guard at the entrance frisked the correspondent and asked for an identity card. There seemed to be no outsider on the campus. The main premises had CCTV cameras.
toilets: The bathrooms for both boys and girls were separated by a passage. There was a woman attendant seated outside the girls’ bathroom.
Authorities say: “The police kaka concept was introduced to our students in this week, when police officials from Chinchwadgaon police station visited us. We have two guards working across three shifts daily,” said a school official, requesting anonymity,
Sant Tukaram Primary School, Baner-Sus Link Road, PMC
Security: The school has primary and secondary sections and runs in two shifts. At 9.10 am on Friday, a Newsline reporter was easily able to enter the campus, but was stopped by teachers before entering the classroom. There were no security guards on campus or CCTV cameras inside campus. A camera is installed at the entrance gate.
toilets: There are toilets on each floor, with separate toilet blocks for boys, girls and staffers.
Authorities say: School officials said while there are talks of installing CCTV cameras inside the campus, none have been installed as of now.
Madhyamik School, Pimple Saudagar, PCMC
Security: Though a guard was on duty at the main gate, he did not stop the reporter. However, the peons on campus checked the correspondent’s ID during the visit.
toilets: The boys’ and girls’ bathrooms share a common wall and there was no woman attendant present at the time of visit.
Authorities say: School officials refused to comment and the principal was not on campus at the time of the visit.
Vidyaniketan Primary School, Pimpri Waghere, PCMC
Security: The school is located near a common playground shared by the privately-run Mahatma Phule Secondary School and Nav Maharashtra Junior College. Students of the neighbouring institutes often drive their two-wheelers in a rash manner around the school; they also use a common main gate that is closest to the primary school. The school campus sees continuous presence of parents and outsiders. There are three gates to enter this campus, but only one security guard on duty during one shift. No guard frisked the reporter at the time of the visit. The school is a three-storey structure and has 500 students. There is one CCTV camera installed on each floor.
toilets: A request for installing cameras outside the girls’ bathroom, which has no woman attendant and shares a wall with the boys’ bathroom, is pending with the PCMC’s education department.
Authorities say: Principal Vidya Vaidya said she was not authorised to comment on the issue.
Golvalkar Guruji Primary School, Aundh, PMC
Security: Two schools, English and Marathi medium, and up to Class V, operate in two shifts from here. At this school, there was no one to stop or check the correspondents when they entered the campus. There were no guards and no CCTV cameras.
toilets: There was no woman attendant at the toilets. The girls’ and boy’s toilets were in the same block, separated only by a wall.
Authorities say: School officials admitted that there were no CCTV cameras installed inside the campus, but refused to comment further.
Pandit Vasantdada Patil School, Pashan, PMC
Security: The school operates in two shifts. While the Pune Newsline team was able to enter the campus unchecked, class teachers stopped the correspondent before entering the building. There are no security guards and no CCTV cameras.
toilets: The toilets are located on the ground floor, near the entrance gate, and are easily accessible. The school has one toilet block, where the girls’ and boys’ toilets are separated by a wall but have a common entrance point. They have separate public toilets for staffers outside the school premises.
Authorities say: At the time of the visit, the principal was not on campus and school officials refused to speak.