Children are supposed to run, and sometimes while doing so they do fall down. Normally, they pick themselves up immediately and resume the activity. Armaan, a 10-year-old boy had no such luck. News reports quoting teachers of GD Goenka Public School, Indirapuram, suggest that Armaan was not even running. On Monday, he fell face down while “walking on the second-floor corridor" of his school and sustained head injuries. He was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital, where he was declared brought dead. In January last year, a 6-year-old student was found dead in a water-storage tank in a south Delhi private school. On July 31 in a Greater Noida school a 7-year-old child died after winning a karate competition. Unfortunately, such incidents keep happening routinely. Parents send their wards to schools to get educated and they expect the management to provide a safe and secure environment.
Early this year, a global survey, “Small Voices Big Dreams”, revealed that one in every three children in India feels their school is not safe. They blamed poor infrastructure and bullying as two main reasons for their lack of sense of safety. The children were concerned about building and personal safety. Schools should be institutions of learning and development, and children should not be worrying about their safety.
GD Goenka is a top end public school. The school vans are painted yellow, with speed governors and GPS locators. The school has a new building, the classrooms are air-conditioned and fitted with electronic white boards. Other than teachers, even the school watch and ward staff keep a keen eye on the children. Despite all this, how did the alleged “accident” happen that resulted in the death of Armaan? The police in its preliminary report has pointed out that the death may have been caused due to head injuries, though a detailed report is still awaited. The distraught mother of Armaan has said that her child "was not weak", doubting the reasons given by the management for the child’s death.
Elite Indian schools in their sales pitch proudly display clean buildings, well-laid-out classrooms and other infrastructure as their unique selling points. Sometimes they do talk about the faculty as well. But they hardly ever mention the welfare of the children and their development. In developed economies, especially in the United States, children even at pre-nursery stage are subjected to mandatory medical checks. Even in public schools, teachers and paramedics routinely check children for their dental health, eyesight and other issues that may be troubling them during their initial formative years. The parents are alerted for a course correction. The reason for Armaan’s death is not yet known, as only a detailed investigation would reveal that. But India cannot afford to lose its young in such a manner. Every child should be protected, otherwise lofty ideals and superpower dreams built around hyper-nationalism would only sound hollow.