The ghastly murder of seven-year old, Pradyuman Thakur, in his school (Ryan International School, Gurgaon) on September 8 morning sent chills down the spine of the whole nation as soon as the news of his killing broke out. How can a child, so bubby, young and innocent be knifed brutally when the school was functioning?
Well the murder case is currently under police investigation and truth will hopefully come to light sooner rather than later. But meanwhile, what has surfaced in terms of negligence and defaults by school in official probes on child safety and security is appalling. And, it must be a rule than exception by most schools in the country. Non-adherence to guidelines and non-compliance to rules and regulations is standard practice by majority of schools. And why the schools and schools authorities get away with this practice is apparently a case of maximum government but minimum governance by regulators and authorities.
There are curious cases of school managements being harassed on whimsy grounds if district authorities, regulator, or education department so wishes, which implies that there is enough room for good governance within existing framework if stakeholders chose to cooperate with each other in interest of children and education. But then, education doesn’t get the kind of attention or political patronage it deserves. It is not the children, their future or good and quality education or even for that matter a robust education system that hold an appeal for political and government class, but it is the unscrupulous gangs capable of greasing their palms, who benefit and thrive in school buisness all the time.
May sound shocking but a signature of official on a routine document by a school in Delhi costs Rs 5000. And this is routine! Imagine, those investing crores of rupees in setting up a school, what might they be ending up paying? And in practice you put off passionate, well-intentioned and well-qualified edupreneurs from setting up schools.
What happened at Ryan school in Gurgaon is in a way a reflection of the failure of the school governance and also that of school leadership. It is too well-known that most principals in private schools are dummies or rubber stamps for owners. No matter how qualified, experienced or with proven track record, they might be, they have to work on the whims and fancies of school management. In case of Ryan Group, it is well known that the group owners have a tight grip on their chain through an unwritten centralized system. The principals are remote controlled and for each and everything practically, they have to seek permission from Mumbai.
Ashok Agarwal, arguably the most respected lawyer in the country who has battled it out with the private school system and is also now the president of All India Parents Association, has written to union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar, post this incident and demanded 50 % representation of parents in school management committees, amending law that gives impunity to minority education institutions because these are the worst violators and indulge in malpractices and make a central law on lines of Delhi School Education Act, 1973 to change the way schools are run. That is the way to go. Pradyuman’s brutal death shouldn’t be forgotten with time, but seen as a martyrdom to improve our schools in every respect for India’s children.