New Delhi: Civic bodies may have asked their schools to improve safety of students in the wake of rape of a seven-year-old girl but principals feel it would be difficult to comply with the order given the scope of their powers.
Principals of a number of municipal schools said though they have been told to improve the environment inside their schools, it will be tough task if councillors and municipal officials do not change their attitude.
"We have to depend on different departments to get any work done. At times we feel helpless and powerless. Our financial powers are very limited which need to be expanded urgently for running the schools efficiently," said a principal.
Citing another example of the shoddy state of affairs at MCD schools, a principal, who has been in the profession for over two decades, said it was an ordeal to even carry out maintenance work of the school building.
"In my school, the complaint about the building having developed a crack was lodged by my predecessor in 2001. And no one has bothered to address the situation, despite my constant reminders," he said.
"If you look at the outer Delhi area, where this incident happened, there is an urgent need to have boundary walls all around the school for security but that is not the case on the ground," he said.
A seven-year-old girl was raped in a school run by North Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) on March 01, following which all the three municipal bodies had asked principals to improve safety of students in the schools.
The NDMC organised a training session for teachers few days back and councillors speaking at the session even admitted that principals were indeed in a bind.
"The councillors are hardly ever available to solve our problems. But we try to keep the officials in good humour and forge some kind of friendship with them so that they will be sympathetic to our needs in case some problem arises," said another principal.
"Of course a child is our responsibility during the school hours. But how do we deal with our concerns not just about security but also regarding inadequate classrooms, high teacher-student ratio, low attendance levels and syllabus that needs a desperate overall.”
"Without looking into these issues, it would not be possible to raise the standard or quality of government schools," a principal of a school in NDMC area said.
The principals said considering the scope of their powers, even trying to solve the most basic problems was a "massive challenge".
"The councillors do not realise just how difficult it is to get any work done," said a principal at the `Inspiration and Training session` organised by the NDMC to prevent any repeat of the Mangolpuri incident and improve the profile of these civic-run schools.
Explaining how even day-to-day work task like getting premises cleaned up was a challenge in itself, a principal said, "The only time the workers do their job properly is when some official or leader is due to visit".
"If a safai karamchari does not do his work properly, we cannot take any action against him, leave alone fire him. We are just completely powerless," another of his colleague added, declining to give his name.
These comments came after Leader of the House Mahendra Nagpal, while addressing principals at the training session, criticised them for "failing" to improve educational environment in schools.
"I have seen that playgrounds are not maintained, drinking water is not clean and the schools are spruced up only when some higher official makes a visit," Nagpal had said.
The attendees at the training session were miffed at the one-way communication happening at the event, which was supposed to look at how to prevent incidents like the one in Mangolpuri from recurring.
One principal said: "There has been no attempt to engage us in a conversation during this entire training session. They are not interested in looking into our problems and discussing ways to improve the situation. We have just been called in to listen."
"We do need dialogue with our elected leaders to function better but not in this manner. In fact, a much better way would have been to call ward wise meetings where principals, councillors, officials from education department as well as PTA members would have been present," he said.