The revelations of the merciless beating of students by the CEO of Priyadarshani School, Bhosari, highlight the deep malaise that exists in academic institutions, both in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.
What is shocking, say parents, is the complete failure of the State Education Department to infuse a sense of discipline in schools — among principals, teachers and the management — which ultimately could translate into a healthy academic environment. Parents allege that the education department has become a puppet in the hands of school managements and that the department is not serious about implementing the Right To Education Act.
The latest incident clearly highlights much that is wrong with the way schools are being run in Pune. Parents and activists believe that the incident leaves little doubt that schools are being run according to the whims of the managements and principals. Most schools, they allege, focus their energy on ensuring an impressive SSC result so that they can publicise their students’ performance and thereby get more students and raise fees.
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Encouraging students to take up sports, exercise, develop oratory skills and learn proper public behaviour is not given any importance, say civic activists.
“What right does a CEO have to beat students the way he did?” asked RTI activist Sachin Godambe who said he has decided to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. Earlier last month, Godambe had filed another complaint with the commission against schools in Pune that begin their day very early in the morning, depriving children of the chance to have a good breakfast and forcing them to learn on an empty stomach.
“There is something seriously wrong with the way schools are run. But the big question is: who will rein them in? Isn’t it the job of the State Education Department? Why is it allowing the schools a free run?” asked Godambe.
The Bhosari incident is not the first time a school has been found guilty of what parents describe as ‘cruel behaviour.’ In November last year, Samruddhi Pawar, a Class IV student of Modern Primary High School on Ganeshkhind Road, died suddenly after she collapsed in the school complaining of chest pain. In another case, a 14-year-old student of Warje-Malwadi died while playing basketball on the school premises last June. He too had no known history of illness. About four years ago, a student of a Nigdi school died on the very first day of the academic year. The girl was not feeling well on that day, but she was made to attend the school that had threatened to punish “any student who remains absent on the first day.”
What is unnerving in all these incidents, say parents, is the response of the State Education Department, which reportedly did not take any strong action against the schools, like de-recognising them or filing police complaints against the principals, teachers and the management. “Unless and until the State Education Department files a police complaint and secures a jail term for principals and teachers for treating students shabbily, nothing will change,” says D G Baliga of the Common People’s Front, which has decided to take up the matter with the state government.
Supporting this view, S D Patil, a parent said, “I have first hand experience of the arrogant behaviour of schools. If you want to make some suggestion or complaint, the school principals show you the door. They tell you rudely to go to some other school if a parent has any complaint against the school. Therefore, it is the principals who should be targeted first.”
Mahavir Mane, Director, State Primary Education, denies the allegation that his department is apathetic to the plight of students. “The education officials are investigating the matter. I am expecting a report on Monday. We will take appropriate action in the matter.”
The schools on their part say that since corporal punishment is banned, there is no deterrence left to discipline the students. “They use all sorts of abusive language in the school premises. You can counsel them and warn them any number of times, but they won’t listen. A teacher ultimately has to resort to caning the child… this is done with the intention that the student won’t repeat his or her objectionable behaviour. If we don’t discipline the children at school level, then they will never become good citizens,” said a school principal.
Rajendra Singh, co-CEO of Priyadarshni School said, “My brother Jitendra Singh, who is also a CEO, has been accused of beating the students. However, he told me that he had on a number of occasions warned the students not to use bad language… We give top priority to discipline. Such an incident has never occurred in our school. This is one of those unfortunate incidents which has tarnished our image. We are holding constant dialogue with the parents to ensure that the healthy teacher-student relation is maintained,” he said.
Domnic Lobo, chairman of National English School, said, “It is wrong to blame management, principals or teachers for the malaise afflicting the schools. The Bhosari incident is shocking, and an aberration. We have also come across incidents where some students refuse to fall in line. However, we use counselling method which has given us the desired result,” he said.
Lobo said that instead of taking good things from television, children are learning bad things. “Therefore, it is important to encourage children to take to sports and teach them various forms of exercises. Most of the schools lay stress on classroom teaching.”