Security at municipal schools in Delhi still inadequate

Security measures at municipal schools after the rape of a seven-year-old girl at a school in Mongolpuri still remain inadequate.

New Delhi: Security measures at municipal schools after the rape of a seven-year-old girl at a school in Mongolpuri here still remain inadequate despite a slew of safety guidelines issued to be adopted at the earliest.

The minor`s rape on March 1 sparked outrage over the lax security at city schools under the three municipal corporations, leading to announcements of a number of safety guidelines to be adopted at these institutions.

But even as the new session started almost a fortnight ago, school principals have said that they remain dissatisfied with the security measures in place.

"There is one chowkidar at the school but no security guard or attendant," said Nam Pal Singh, principal of the primary school at Raj Nagar under South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

"In the evening shift for which I am responsible, about 1000 children attend classes. In the absence of a guard and a low boundary wall, security is a major issue," he said.

"I have repeatedly demanded that the height of boundary wall be raised but to no avail. There is a senior secondary school right beside the primary one and students from there are constantly scaling the wall to enter this premises," he added.

In fact, the North Corporation in wake of the Mongolpuri incident constituted a committee which ruled that every school must have an attendant, a chowkidar, a security guard, CCTV camera monitoring as well as mandatory I-cards for staff coming in to serve mid-day meals.

The South and East Corporation too had agreed that similar measures were indeed necessary.

But five months since, little has changed on the ground.

As Hukum Singh Singmar, principal of primary school at Sultanpuri G Block under North Delhi Municipal Corporation, says, the need of posting security guards at the gates is a vital necessity.

"I have asked time and again for new wire fencing on the boundary wall but nothing has been done. I have to constantly be on the lookout as anti-social elements keep entering the premises," he added.

Another problem Singmar has faced is that midday meal
staff refuse to get their identities verified. "I have told them to issue I-cards so that I know who is entering my school but this has not happened till date."

A teacher at Nigam Pratibha School at Usmanpur under East Corporation, who did not want to be named, said the school was yet to receive a replacement for the attendant who retired some time ago.

"We have not been told by what time will a new attendant be appointed or for that matter a security guard," he said, explaining that with 1300 children in morning shift and 1000 children in the evening, these are basic necessities.

When asked if these were isolated problems in their schools, the respondents categorically said the same issues were being faced by their colleagues in schools across the municipal corporation areas.

Ram Kishan Punia, chairman of the Joint Council of Primary Teachers, believes that the reason for the problem was lack of staff.

"A lot of posts of chowkidars and attendants are vacant in the corporation. While political leaders make announcements when something goes wrong, they rarely follow it up with concrete action on the ground. While the number of children in very high, the measures to ensure their security are non-existent," he said.

The education committee chairmen at the corporation level admit that much more needs to be done to ensure security of children in schools and argue that they are doing all they can to address the situation.

"The budget for installation of CCTVs was approved in April and the hiring of security guards will take about three months. We are, however, providing chowkidars in all schools under our jurisdiction," said Satish Upadhyay, chairman of education committee at the South Delhi Municipal Corporation.

"In case of midday meal staff, just this week I have issued instruction that they all should carry id-cards by next Wednesday to eliminate this weak link," Upadhyay added.

"As far as increasing height of boundary walls is concerned, the engineering department has been told to look at individual request from schools and undertake the task," he said.

His counterpart at the North Delhi Municipal Corporation, Rekha Gupta, says the induction of security guards and increasing height of boundary walls is in the tender process.

However, she did not put a deadline for these tasks to be completed, despite the fact that the Mangolpuri school is under jurisdiction of NDMC, which led to a re-think on school security.

"There is no deadline for this but we will try and complete it at the earliest. The recent strike by contractors has also affected the work of wall construction," Gupta said.

Talking about midday meal staff, she said she was aware of them not carrying out police verification.

"We will issue instructions shortly that without such verification, they will not be allowed to enter the school premises," she said.

As of now, NDMC runs 762 primary schools, while the corresponding figure for SDMC and EDMC stands at 588 and 390 respectively.


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