THE MUZAFFARNAGAR district administration Friday sacked the principal of a UP government girls’ school in Khatauli following allegations that around 70 students aged between 11 and 14 years were stripped to check for signs of menstruation after bloodstains were found inside a school toilet five days ago. The principal was also the warden of the residential facility, officials said.
“The guardians of children studying in Kasturba Gandhi Residential Girls School complained about the incident. An inquiry committee was set up by the district administration to look into their concerns. The committee found that the incident took place following which principal of the school, Surekha Tomar, was sacked. Her contract has been terminated. The principal has alleged that she was just helping out students, checking if they were menstruating. But this is not acceptable,” said Chandra Kesh Yadav, Primary Education Officer. Tomar, however, dismissed the allegations and said they were part of a “conspiracy by other school staff”.
At 4.30 pm on Sunday, about 70 of the 80 girls who reside there had queued outside the warden’s office on the ground floor to deposit blankets and other warm clothes provided by the school. “No other teachers were present at that time since we were on other duties, such as checking examination answer sheets. The exams got over on March 24,” said Neeta Chaudhary, who teaches social studies and is now the acting warden.
In a room on the first floor of the school building, where 32 metal trunks were stacked against one wall, a 12-year-old girl recounted the events. “Because of the onset of summer, we were asked to return the blankets and sweaters that the school had given us. We were in Badi ma’am’s room downstairs when some students informed her about bloodstains in the toilet. A wall and the door handle had some blood stains,” said the student, the eldest child of a tailor and a first-generation learner, who has been living in the school for the last one year.
The warden asked students who was responsible for the bloodstains, but no one took the responsibility, said another student. “She told us that if we believed we were shameless, we should know that she was more shameless than us. She asked two of us to strip all students and we, too, were stripped naked. She wanted to check if any of us were menstruating,” said a 13-year-old girl, who is also a first-generation learner and the daughter of daily-wage labourers.
For at least an hour, the 70 girls — most of them first-generation learners, some former school drop-outs — were kept in a classroom, naked, while two of them checked for signs of menstruation in Tomar’s presence, alleged teachers and students.
“She (Tomar) told us that if we did not obey her, she would hit us. Many girls who showed initial resistance to being stripped or tried to run upstairs were slapped by her,” the 13-year-old alleged.
Another 12-year-old, who has just completed a six-month-long bridge course and will be studying in Class VI, said, “I did not want to take off my clothes. Everyone would start laughing but I did not want to be beaten up. But I also did not want to be humiliated.”
The incident came to light during routine phone calls from guardians and parents, said school staff. “She never used to give her mobile phone number to parents. The children’s parents call on our mobile phones to speak to their wards. On Monday and Tuesday, we were on survey work due to which we did not come to know about this. But on March 29, after the children spoke to their parents and told them about what had happened, the parents came to the school. Some took their children back. On Thursday, they were protesting here and demanding that the principal be sacked,” said Choudhary, the acting warden.
The junior teachers tried to intervene between Tomar and angry parents, but the complainants could not be pacified, said staff.
“We were trying to calm them down and apologised but they turned to us and asked — if one of you were asked to take off your salwar, would you be saying the same thing? We had no answers. This was not a kind of punishment you would give to anyone. If someone was menstruating, there is a way in which one can speak to them. All these children are very young,” said Shalu Pawar, who teaches physical education at the school.
The school, which came up in 2009 at Khatauli block’s Tigahi village, caters to students from neighbouring areas in classes VI to VIII. It has three computers that don’t work and around half-a-dozen tablas sitting atop two bookshelves that make up the school library. With 16 wooden cots covered with white bedsheets in one room, three such rooms on the first floor function as dormitories.
Responding to the allegations, Tomar said, “Nothing like this happened. What happened was that bloodstains were found on the wall and door of the toilet. The children were asked if anyone has any menstrual problem. Some 11 or 12-year-old children start menstruating. This is a conspiracy by the other school staff. I am strict about the children’s education. The staff has managed to convince the students to conspire against me.”
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