SCHOOL BUSES ferrying students from Mohali to private schools in Chandigarh did not ply in Punjab on Monday, creating confusion and inconvenience for parents and students on the first day of the new session.
A majority of schools that were open did not send their buses to Mohali and Zirakpur, and informed the parents a night before or in the wee hours in view of the Bharat Bandh call by Dalit outfits protesting against the Supreme Court verdict on the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The Punjab government on Sunday ordered closure of all educational institutions on Monday and took public transport off the roads. It also suspended internet services from 5 pm on Sunday till 11 pm on Monday. While some Mohali residents claimed that the schools did not inform them or did so early in the morning, many did not even send their children to school. Others dropped and picked their kids to and from the school.
A parent on condition of anonymity said, “The buses for St John’s did not enter Punjab, but we did not get any prior information from the school. We got in touch with the bus operators on our own and asked them to pick and drop the kids on the Chandigarh-Mohali border.” The parent added that the school should have informed them the night before if SMS and WhatsApp services were suspended.
Another Mohali resident whose children study in St John’s said, “When I called the bus contractor on Sunday night, he told me buses will be plying on Monday as the school will remain open. When I confirmed the same in the morning, he said buses will not be coming to Mohali so I told him I’ll drop the kids on my own.” The parent added that the bus driver later called and said he could pick up the kids from Sector 61. “So, I took my kids and five to six other kids also took the bus from Sector 61. While returning, I asked the bus driver to drop them off in Sector 51 from where I picked them,” the parent said.
Milanpreet Kaur, a resident of Phase 4 in Mohali, said, “My son studies in Class 11 at St John’s, but I didn’t send him to school. We didn’t want to take a risk. Even his friends didn’t go as it was a collective decision of all the parents here.” Manjeet Singh, the leader of bus operators’ union in Chandigarh, said, “We had already told parents and schools that we will not be plying in Punjab. It is the school’s duty to inform parents, not ours. Only three to four private schools were open today. The rest will open from April 4.”
A majority of private schools in Chandigarh will open on April 3 or 4. However, some schools, including St John’s High School, Sector 26, Bhavan Vidyalaya, DAV Public School in Sectors 8 and 39, Vivek High School, Sector 38B, began the new session. Delhi Public School, Sector 40, opened for the new session only for nursery classes while it began the new session for other classes a week ago.
Nidhi Saxena, public relations officer of St John’s, said, “We got messages about the buses at 4 am and could not inform parents as SMS and internet services were suspended. We have around 10 buses going to Mohali which tied up with parents on their own and picked and dropped students on the Chandigarh-Mohali border. Many parents also came to drop and pick their kids as it was the first day of the session.”
Other schools such as Bhavan Vidyalaya and Delhi Public School canceled bus services for the day in Mohali and Zirakpur due to safety concerns. Reema Dewan, principal, DPS, said, “We canceled buses going to Mohali and Zirakpur. So not many students from those areas attended school. Only nursery classes started today, the rest started a week back.” She added that nursery students attended the first day of school in batches over two days, so they got only 50 per cent of the new children.
“Only a handful of nursery students attended school. We personally reached out to all the parents on Sunday night to prioritise students’ safety over anything else,” she claimed.