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Do parents really care about child safety or do they want to outsource caring for children?

Disclosure of bias: I am biased against mainstream schools as currently exist in India and think they do more harm than good. We need better schools and for reasons more than security.

This is the second murder in a Ryan International School. Last year, in February, a child was found drowned in the Ryan International School in Vasant Kunj. Now there is a child found stabbed to death in the Ryan International School in Gurgaon.

Very conveniently there is the confession of a murder on TV by a bus conductor. Soon, the predictable will happen. The bus conductor will be the villain. Lawyers are already refusing to represent him, which will always leave the question of whether he is taking the fall for someone else.

The questions not being asked are how after having one murder in the school, the safety of students was still lax enough for a murder to happen in the toilet of a school. It does not explain what a bus conductor was doing in the children’s toilet to begin with to have the opportunity – if at all he is the murderer as he is confessing.

But more than that, it does not explain what children were doing in that school at all. Or, for that matter, any school. The Delhi Gang Rape used a school bus to commit a horrendous rape. The driver of the bus was ferrying children on a daily basis till caught. Much outrage had ensued. Much vanishing of who the owner of the bus was happened. Sheila Dixit made it mandatory for schools to run background checks.

What happened? When the child was found dead in the Ryan International School in Vasant Kunj, many excuses were made to shrug off responsibility like he had a habit of wandering. Seriously? A child had a habit of not being in class and wandering the school and no one found it odd enough to investigate or be alert for?

I wonder at the gullibility of parents who send children to school. In an age when we don’t see a two hour film without reading a review or hearing word of mouth praise first, how is it that parents commit 10 years of a child’s time without so much as asking whether it is necessary at all to spend 10 years to learn to read and write.

But that is the real thing. Schools are not a service to children, they are a service to parents – a service that gets the kid out of your hair for most of the day, and installs all the knowledge a “standard human being” should have as per a template. It has nothing to do with a child’s needs. Nor does it have any ability to predict what knowledge a child will need to function in the world as an adult. Most of you who learned how to calculate square roots in school have never done it after leaving school. Most of you who mugged up names of random places in the world have never found use for that information as an adult. What a child does in school has nothing to do with a child’s needs.

We recognize the vulnerability of children and think they are stupid, but have no hesitation sending them off to an environment which may not be safe on their own without us. I could easily get a high paying job instead of making do with working from home. The reason I don’t is that my son can’t speak. Till he isn’t able to tell me about his day and complain if he had a problem, not a chance I’m leaving him to strangers in day-care. I have no intentions of allowing someone who could potentially be harming my child to speak for him. And when I say harm, I include so much as intimidating or insulting a child or subjecting them to the indignity of sarcasm and taunts. Let alone murder.

I must wonder at parents who can comfortably trust a school and not think further. When there is a rape or a murder, parents suddenly get all traumatized. Parents reading about it imagine their innocent child in that place, all broken and dead, they can’t bear it. Many cry, can’t get images out of their heads. But it isn’t like they won’t send their child to school or will go and land up in the school of their own child and demand to see the files with background checks on all the people working there to make sure that robust investigation of potential risks has indeed happened.

It isn’t like if their child talks about a sarcastic or unpopular teacher in school, they land up demanding that teacher account for their actions or be taken out. How many of you, after the Delhi Gang rape insisted that all personnel on the campus of your own child’s school be investigated? But offending people by thinking they are suspicious is so bad, no? Yet they provide an Aadhaar that tracks people as potential criminals by default.

How many did this after any instance of a child being found raped or murdered in school? This is just the capital of the country – a place where “people like us” send their kids. There are even more horror stories from schools in smaller towns, hostels for tribals. Government schools are a free for all – may the biggest bully call the shots. What will it take for parents to see that schools are NOT SAFE FOR CHILDREN? Or at the very least to demand a security audit? What will it take to see that schools are a business that targets parent satisfaction and not kids? What will it take for people to stand up for their own damn child instead of imagining them in every crime against children and getting all emotional, but doing nothing to protect?

I am a staunch proponent of homeschooling, but I accept that it may not be an option for many people who have jobs – for example or where there are ill people in the home needing considerable attention, leaving the adults too weary to participate in a child’s learning. Or where the home enviornment may have abusive people around. Sure, schools can be a necessity for many. But I think it is high time their overinflated importance be evaluated too. If a school can’t get your children fluent in basic knowledge and blames children for low scores, it is basically time and money invested with zero guarantee. And today, there is no guarantee that all the education in the world will result in a job anyway. Technology is developing so fast that assistive devices may take communication to the illiterate without ever requiring them to read or write in a few decades. What exactly is it that the school is being glorified for? Why is it that the need of sending a child to school at all can’t be questioned? Why is it so hard that schools face robust scrutiny? You’d have a problem if your office peon or collegaue or even the CEO squeezed your boobs as he passed by, right? What will it take to ensure that extensive efforts are made to ensure that your child isn’t going to be subjected to it? How the hell is it that parents simply meekly take a school’s word for it – if at all they ask.

It won’t be easy. Schools are already on tight budgets. Popular culture blurs age and sexuality encouraging perverts and normalizing behavior that should create alarm. Investigations and stepping up security is time consuming, expensive. Being screened would probably be taken as an insult by many teachers who feel entitled to lack of scrutiny. But it isn’t impossible either. Without security, the most logical place for a pedophile to be in is a school. Where the ratio of vulnerable targets to potentially alert protective adults is exceptionally high – say unlike a park, stressed teachers getting through their duties on autopilot are not likely to notice things unless trained for it. How many schools train their staff in basic security concepts so that they may notice and investigate potential risks?

This is my question to you, parents. When are you going to shed this blind obedience to authority figures and demand that they are worthy of the trust you entrust them with? Does your child matter or not?

Because right now, the old Ryan International School murder is all but forgotten, and the new one is on its way out of our awareness. We forget, over and over the news that shows the threat to children. Untill next time.

What will it take for you to ensure to the best of YOUR capacity that your child is not on national news for the wrong reasons?

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