The Ghazal Yadav case has brought about some chilling facts about safety and security in schools in the region

A class 2nd student, she was a girl with dreams in her eyes. She was a Karate champion in her school and looked set for a bright career before tragedy struck. Ghazal Yadav passed away on 31st January 2017 while she was at her school viz. DPS World school at Noida extension. While not much is known of the exact cause of her demise, this has brought about a serious need for all schools to introspect and for parents to give due importance to safety and security of a school. It also brings about some chilling facts about safety and security in schools in the region. It stresses on the much needed focus and equal significance to safety and safety in the school. More so because we are giving these schools our precious life for 6 hours every single day (money immaterial).

Safety and security in school is not about CCTV surveillance, entry/exit checks and teacher supervision alone. Have the parents ever verified that the following emergency kit is kept ready in the school at all times?

  • Two pairs of disposable gloves
  • Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
  • Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
  • Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
  • Burn ointment
  • Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
  • Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
  • Scissors
  • Over-the-counter medicines such as Aspirin or other pain reliever, laxative, anti-diarrhea medication
  • Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine, or asthma inhaler
  • Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose monitoring equipment or blood pressure monitors

Do parents know that all schools are required to carry out nursery and elementary classes on lower floors?

Do you know of the various guidelines that schools are required to follow as per ‘National Disaster Management Guidelines- School Safety Policy’? It might seem that our children are merely living on God’s mercy as only 60 to 70% of these guidelines are actually strictly followed by schools. When Go4reviews did a survey of Noida and Noida extension schools in mid last year, the schools were found ignorant of many of those guidelines. While they fared poorly on meeting those conditions, parents still ranked schools highly on safety and security indicating lack of proper check on part of parents as well. These guidelines needs to be followed up and strictly enforced in the schools and parents have a big role to play in ensuring that.

Structural safety measures:

  • New schools should be located, on a site that has adequate mitigation measures already in place against any imminent natural hazards. Existing schools located in a vulnerable location should either be relocated at a safer site or they should be provided adequate support to mitigate the effect of any natural hazards that may affect the area.
  • All new school constructions should include disaster resilient features. Existing vulnerable schools need to be repaired to the desired level of resilience with regard to local disaster risks.
  • Prescribed designs as per National building code (NBC) may be adapted to accommodate safety and child friendly features.
  • For design of structural standards of school building and its components such as corridors, staircases, side areas, quality of construction should be as per the National Building Code 2005. Only non-combustible, fire-proof, heat resistant materials shall be used in school construction.
  • Vertical expansion of existing schools shall not be carried out without a fitness certificate for the building from a certified civil / structural engineer.
  • Additional classrooms or any other structures requiring horizontal expansion shall be designed taking into account the space availability and while constructing as a continuous unit to the existing structures, these should be designed to have less impact of seismic forces.
  • Each class room should have two doors for easy evacuation; adequate openings for ventilation and lighting are some of the essential elements that need to be accommodated in the design.
  • Doors opening outside, into open areas or corridors of adequate width are key details that need to be incorporated to make schools safer.
  • Schools should also develop a Disaster Management Plan defining procedures to confine, contain, consolidate and control the emergency and crisis, with inputs from DDMA.

The schools need to have building safety certificate from an authorized architect which further needs to be vetted at district level.

Non-Structural safety measures:

  • All items of furniture such as almirahs, shelves, black boards etc., as well as any other items that may fall and cause injury to students and teachers such as ceiling fans, coolers, water tanks etc. need to be secured to the walls or floor.
  • Any electrical items such as loose wires that may cause an exigency should be addressed promptly by the school.
  • Chemical and any hazardous materials in the school laboratory should be handled and stored as per instructions to prevent any harm to students and school staff.
  • Open areas including corridors and evacuation routes including staircases and ramps should be kept free from any hurdles and barriers so that evacuation is smooth and swift.
  • Pots / planters in the play ground or corridors should be kept in a manner that does not affect smooth evacuation
  • Any derelict or unused building, rubble, etc. should be removed to prevent any harmful animals or pests from accessing children.
  • Traffic movement outside the school should be managed to minimize risk to students at the time of assembling and dispersal of school.
  • During excursions, schools should carefully choose the location of excursion and the itinerary so that exposure to hazard is minimized. Extra precautions should be taken when students are being taken close to water bodies, narrow mountainous tracks etc.
  • Buses or any other vehicles owned / hired by the school need to be maintained properly so that students are not at risk of accidents. Drivers need to be appropriately trained on speed limits, stoppage of vehicles as well as crisis management so that children remain safe during their travel to and from schools.
  • Emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, ropes etc. need to be procured and maintained regularly by the School Authorities.

Capacity building measures through Trainings:

Both students and school staff need to participate in these regular training for strengthening understanding of:

  • Potential disasters that may affect the school community;
  • Warning signals, emergency and crisis instructions and mitigation actions for different levels of response.
  • Evacuation routes, and knowledge of safe spaces and shelter locations;
  • First-aid and basic life support
  • Availability of personal and group counseling and support following a disaster; and
  • Updates in the disaster management plan that affect the total population of the school.

How often does school do those kind of trainings? Rare, extremely rare. Its time we as parents raise questions about safety and security.

Its also time for government to come out with guidelines on playground safety, a need almost gone unnoticed.

References: 

http://nidm.gov.in/PDF/IEC/SSP2.pdf

http://ndma.gov.in/images/guidelines/School-Safety-Policy.pdf

Last updated: February 4, 2017 at 4:25 am

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