Sending a child to school just isn’t the same any more.
The latest incident that reinforces this unfortunate truth is what happened at the Marathahalli branch of Vibgyor High School, one of the more reputed private schools in the city, catering largely to educated upper middle class parents, many of them migrants to the city.
On 2 July, a child studying in the first grade was punished with ‘isolation’ in another room of the same school, during which two men, at least one among them reportedly being a teacher in the same school, allegedly sexually abused her. The traumatised child was unable to report the incident to her parents initially. It was only a few days later, when she complained of physical pain and was medically examined, that the incident came to light.
The parents of the child lodged an FIR with the police on 9 July in which they recorded that their daughter had been abused by an SPA (Sports and Performing Arts) teacher and another unidentified man. This was corroborated on Wednesday by T D Pawar, DCP South – East, who also shared that investigations were on, but no one had been arrested in the case yet.
On Wednesday, social media was abuzz as the news of the incident spread and parents across this part of the city united in their outrage against the school authorities. For one thing, they were deeply anguished that despite their queries about presence of police personnel on campus over the last few days, the school had constantly tried to mask the truth, ascribing police presence to some ‘transport issues.’
It was only after some dailies reported an instance of alleged rape in an ‘upmarket’ school near Tubarahalli / Kundanahalli that they probed further and eventually came to know the truth. While school authorities have still been ambiguous over the issue, the police confirmed the above facts related to the case before a large gathering of parents at the Vibgyor school on Wednesday.
‘School hid this incident from us’
When Citizen Matters visited the school, an angry mother present at the school told us, “The school sends us an sms for the smallest of issues. Even if the bus is late by 5 minutes, they inform us. Yet, they chose to keep us in the dark about such a big issue. When we called to ask why there were so many policemen on campus, they made up stories.” What added to their consternation was the fact that till Wednesday, neither the Principal nor the Director of the school had made a single statement explaining the lapse or what they were doing to prevent repetition.
The fact that many of the news reports, especially in English media, did not name the school – with some even suggesting that the incident occurred out of the school premises – has angered parents further. Many of them accuse the school of actually using their power to try and silence the media on this issue.
But while this incident has been the immediate trigger for the current expression of outrage and protest, the angst of parents and their complaints against the school have more deep-seated roots. Some parents say the same school that asked parents to sign an undertaking that absolves the school of any responsibility for what happens to a child during school hours. In fact, it even prohibits parents to gather in groups to raise any of their concerns.
Many more incidents in the past?
More shocking perhaps are the indications that this may not be the first such instance in the school. Several conversations on social media and even some parents that Citizen Matters spoke to pointed out that multiple cases related to molestation and physical abuse have been reported within the school premises over the recent past.
One such relates to the alleged molestation of a sixth grade student by the swimming teacher. In another case, a girl student was persistently photographed by an SPA teacher, whom many consider to be one of the accused in the present case involving the six-year-old.
The school has turned a deaf ear to all these allegations in the past, say parents, never acting on them, which may well have emboldened the culprits and culminated in this ghastly incident.
However, Citizen Matters has received no confirmation or correspondence relating to these incidents or evidence that the same people had been involved.
Outsourced ‘teachers’, not on school’s roll!
What makes matters legally messy is the fact that the two men named in the FIR may not belong to the rolls of Vibgyor High. Parents say this is because the instruction of SPA or co-curricular activities is outsourced by the School to external academies. Effectively, therefore, the accused are not Vibgyor staff and whether the school may be held culpable under the circumstances is something that is yet to be established with any degree of certainty.
But while the legal ramifications remain unclear in the immediate present, it does not preclude some very important questions that have arisen in the wake of this incident.
Can a school shirk all responsibility for custodial safety of children merely by getting parents to sign an agreement in concurrence? Incidentally, while Vibgyor has had this practice for a while now, several schools seem to be taking a leaf out of this. Even as the fury over the 2 July incident boiled over, another international school in the city, the Treamis World School in Electronic City issued a similar form for parents to sign.
More schools insulating themselves?
The first clause in the form reads: “In consideration of my child’s participation in various events organised by the Treamis World School which may include field trips, excursions, expeditions, annual camps, sports events etc., I hereby release the management, officers, employees and agents of Treamis, its parent and sister concerns and any other people officially connected with the events, from any and all liability for damage to or loss of personal property, sickness or injury from whatever source, legal entanglements, loss of life or money, which might occur while my child is participating in the event.” (emphasis added)
Yet another critical question relates to the propriety of schools, which are essentially meant to own responsibility for all education imparted, in appointing external agencies and then claiming innocence and ignorance when there is a misconduct or lapse in responsibility by one or more agents of the contractee.
In Vibgyor’s case, of course, things go further as the school is also known to let out its premises and infrastructure, albeit out of school hours or during vacations, for external students. This, too, has led to unsavoury incidents in the past, most notably when a lady taking swimming lessons was molested in the pool by two men, as reported earlier by Bangalore Mirror.
But the overarching question that remains is of the processes followed, not just by the school in question, but schools in general. Shocking as it is, this is not the first time that Bangalore has awaken to an incident such as this.
There have been several reported incidents of attempted or real sexual harassment of children either within premises or in school transport. One of the most recent and prominent cases is that of a pre-school on Sarjapur Road, where a toddler was allegedly raped by the driver of the school van after the teacher sent her out with the ayah as she was crying in class.
Who will be held responsible in this case? Whether it is the school, or the outsourced agency? Or the criminals themselves? Why are the names not revealed in this case? What are the rules to be followed by schools in such cases? With many such questions remaining unanswered, Citizen Matters will continue to track this story.
Also read: State asks ICSE board to cancel the license of the school
Never-ending rapes: What. Exactly. Is. Going. Wrong?
The rape debate – did it or did it not happen?
State asks ICSE board to cancel school’s licence: Second blow to Vibgyor parents
Are you supporting rape? Inadvertently?
‘Unfortunate incident,’ says Vibgyor High head
Every school should communicate properly about the caring and activities of its students with their parents. Paying a huge amount as monthly fee, development charge and so many things are worthless, when a school is not providing appropriate facilities and special care to students. parents can use mobile communication app provided by schools, where they can get updated about each and every activities of students with pictures and text messages. For parents its absolutely free, only school need to take its subscription to send unlimited text and picture messages to parents. There are so much features in this app, through which parents are getting updated about their child activities and performance, and also they can communicate directly to schools by its 2-way communication features. So, there are lot of benefits of this mobile communication app for parents. They are getting instant pictures of their child, their performances, all the school information and 2-way communication with school.
For more information about provider of this Mobile Communication App site is: sauryam.in and company is Sauryam Infotechnologies, Bengaluru.
We are the parents from Horamavu Branch
We are boycotting the school from tomorrow onwards. We want safety and healthy environment for kids. That they should have to feel home.
Paying Somuch money to the schools still we are worrying about the school. This is not fair at all. We had asked the principal to provide one circular saying that we are responsible for kids as long as they are in school. Still they did not come back with any of the suggestion or concern. Are we asking anything which they do not achieve, no right. We are asking only safety of our kids. But no response. Please insist the management asking the safety measures if you are not vibgyor also ask the respective school management. If you are vibgyor, please try to do boycott and insist the management to remove the clause.
A letter sent by parents to VIBGYOR High, E-City
SUBJECT: Serious Concerns over Safety & Security of our Kids studying in your School
We are from Ajmera Infinity, Electronic City, Bangalore. Our kids are currently studying in your esteemed School.
The recent incident involving one of the student of VIBGYOR High, Marthahalli, Bangalore has unnerved all of us and has raised many concerns with respect to safety and security of our Children. While the incident happened in the Marthahalli Branch of Vibgyor, we believe that our Kids studying in the Electronic City Branch are exposed to lot of safety and security related issues/concerns.
We would like you to address these concerns immediately and let us know the actions that the School is taking to address/mitigate these concerns. As parents, we believe that your School is accountable to provide an answer to these concerns and get back to us with a response on concrete measures that would be taken to address the concerns. In our meeting today, we would discuss these points.
We would request you to come up with a clear, concise and concrete response on these points within the next 7 days (By Saturday 26th July 2014) along with the action items and the ETA for resolving all the points that are being raised by us. We need a commitment towards creating a safe and secure learning environment for our children. This would help in ensuring that out faith in this prestigious institution is restored.
Following are some of the top priority issues/concerns/points that we would like to present before you (these are not necessarily in the order of priority):
1. CCTV Cameras: CCTV cameras are extremely important from tracking/monitoring the Security of a facility. We have the following questions/asks on CCTV cameras:
a. Are the CCTV cameras in working condition?
b. Who is monitoring the CCTV cameras? Is the monitoring done continuously during School hours?
c. Are CCTV cameras installed in class rooms?
d. We want you to ensure that CCTV recording/backup is available for up to 1 month at the minimum
e. How is the CCTV camera being used to cover the corner area/blind areas/dark rooms/outside activities?
2. Attendance Register/Tracking: Parents strongly recommend to maintain a bus register to track the students who are boarding and alighting the bus. Following are some of the questions/asks:
a. Earlier, we used to get SMS on who is the bus driver for our route. We have stopped getting the SMS, why?
b. No attendance register is being maintained to track the students who are boarding and alighting the bus. The same needs to be implemented immediately. Also, once the Bus leaves to School after picking up Kids, we need to ensure that Drivers are instructed not to stop and onboard any person who is not a student.
c. Keep Track system: The Smart Cards have been introduced but are non- functional. Embracing technology would help us in safeguarding our kids against safety/security threats. Please implement the Smard cards functioning immediately. Please provide us with the ETA for the same.
d. If kids are coming back to the class (after a break or SPA activities) attendance to be taken to ensure no student is missing from the class
e. If the student is absent, the School should call the Parent and check whether that is the case. This is a small thing but help in ensuring that the number of students heading to School in the bus = number of students reaching the school.
3. Checking at Security gate: We all know that dangers of security lapses. We have seen cases wherein the security person at the gate does not check the identity of the person who is visiting the school before letting him/her into the school. We recommend stringent measures to ensure that Security is beefed up and is proactive. Following are some of the measures:
a. For any visitors, the school should ask for an Identity card of the visitor which should be the government certified proof/I card (Driving License, PAN card, Aadhar card (as an example). The person should not be allowed inside the campus without checking his/her identity.
b. Drivers should not be allowed inside the campus after they park their buses. There needs to be a separate place where they can sit/wait and that place has to be monitored/should be under surveillance.
4. Is there a lady help / common help in the corridor to help students who want to use the rest room? Do we have enough headcount waiting in the corridor to help students who want to use the rest room?
5. Parents strongly recommend presence of a lady teacher during SPA and other outdoor activities.We demand a lady teacher for Swimming, gym, Sports, Dance and other outdoor activities.
6. Background Checks of all the staff: Good staff having a clean background is critical to the success and survival of any organization. One of the best and most cost-effective ways to ensure you make a smart hiring decision is to pre-screen candidates through background checks. Not only do background checks cut down on bad hiring decisions, but background checks also proactively protect your School. We want you to commit to the following:
a. 100% background checks are done for all the staff members.
b. Not outsourcing of roles. All the staff should be on your payrolls and should be inducted only after the background checks.
c. The results of the background checks should be accessible to the parents.
d. Ensure that background checks are done by organization which are experts in the field of background checking.
7. There are many instances where kids have been given physical punishment like pulling the ears, hitting on the knuckles, spanking on the back. Physical punishment should not be given to the kids.
8. Parents committee should be allowed, and the parents committee should be allowed to inspect on a regular basis.Please let us know whether you are agreeable to this request.
9. At present there is no fixed bus route/number for the kids while coming back. Proper bus routes/number to be allocated to all the kids. Please provide ETA on this.
10. There should be no construction activities during the school working hours. Also, proper security checks should be introduced so as to ensure that students are protected in this case. All safety measures should be implemented.
11. There have been instances of kids being bullied in the school. Please let us know what measures are being taken to ensure that there Is “No tolerance” for this serious issue.
12. For the field trips, Safety and Security of our kids is of paramount importance. Please notify us on the exact details of the field trip and allow some of the parents to accompany kids during a field trip.
13. Today, Vibgyor Electronic City has only one official number. It becomes extremely difficult to contact the School since most of the time the phone is either busy or ringing (no one picks up). Please have at least 4-5 board numbers where the parents can reachout to the School.
14. We would like to meet the Management group who are in-charge and deciding authority of
a. The Governance of the School: To assure that what ever promised by Principal will be implemented within the deadline and approve other new system implementation.
b. The Teacher Training head: To know how the teachers are prepared for handling the children from VIBGYOUR end other when their B.ED or M.Ed courses. Why cannot teacher act as a accountable person of our kids at school instead of them acting like a Customer Relationship or PR Manager to please the Parents.. If they have not a system,when they will implement this concerning the security of the kids more then Academics
c. Student counseling team: I want to ensure that there is a Help desk or counselor to all kids for according to their age. There should be a child friendly person who doesn’t judge children according to their skills/performance at school.
d. Children development team: If any thing is in place to teach kids to express their feeling regarding:(Dairy has all printed material for parents*)
i. a. The fear of punishment
ii. Freedom of speech
iii. Their code of Conduct with their classmates( to avoid bullying)
iv. Regarding the gender differences and the care to be given to girl children.
v. How frequent are this session
vi. Parents awareness to help the teacher in holistic development of the child
We would request you to provide your response/feedback/confirmation on the above mentioned points in the next 7 calendar days (by 26th July 2014). We are very disturbed with the event that has occurred and would want you to be proactive about it and solve our problem statements. If we do not get suitable response from you, we would have no other option but to escalate this matter to the senior authority in Vibgyor group.
Sir, today, around 100 kids from Ajmera and an equal number from Concorde Manhattan study in Vibgyor. We have selected this School because a lot was promised to us at the time of admission. It is time for you to answer all the questions that we have and commit to the safety and security of our previous little ones.
We are also attaching a mail written by one of our Ajmera Parents last year where few concerns were raised on similar topics. Nothing has been done to address those concerns. Please take a look at those concerns and respond as well.
We look forward to hearing from you in the next 7 days. If you feel that we should have another meeting, we are more than happy to visit your campus and would attend that meeting. Looking forward to hearing from you.
I feel there is a need for sanity check in this issue.
Who needs to be punished (those I feel are legally and / or morally culpable for the incident)
1. The two (or more) perpetrators (of course)
2. The class teacher and the co-teacher
3. The school management (if they tried to hush up the case as alleged)
4. The owner (Mr Rustum Kerawala)
As of now let’s see what is happening
1. The perpetrators are yet to be arrested. When they are finally charged, setting up a fast track court to deal with the case may be our only hope for timely justice.
2. The police have said that it shall look in to the culpability of school management.
3. There are talks of shutting down the school and requesting CISCE to disaffiliate the school.
Who will suffer from the last move
1. The owner – I don’t think so. He may lose one branch. He has numerous branches all over the country (8 in this city itself, when I counted last). Yes, brand VIBGYOR has taken a beating, but considering the demand supply gap in education, it won’t matter in the long run. (is that why he is so cool).
2. Think about the ~ 3000 kids in the school. What if your daughter is studying in grade X. Do you protest to shut down this school? I guess you must already be hunting for another school that will accept your child. Is that school going to be safer? If yes, then can’t we implement those safety measures in this school and allow the school to run. All difficult questions to answer.
Is there a solution
1. The short term solution is to put security measures like surveillance and monitoring (electronic), background checks of all employees, etc in place as quickly as possible. The school has to voluntarily do this. I don’t think the Government can bring in a regulation to this effect. Remember it shall be in violation of its own regulation when it comes to government schools, especially in rural areas.
2. Form and empower PTMA (Parents, Teachers + Management Association). The model I propose is as follows :-
a. PTMA comprises of all parents, teachers and management personnel of the school.
b. The members of the executive body of PTMA (say six) are elected / nominated. Three seats are occupied by Parents reps and three by reps of teachers / management.
c. The executive body meets every month. The general body meets at least once a quarter.
d. PTMA reviews the entire gamut of school operations. The recommendations of the PTMA are binding on the school administration.
3. I don’t think we as parents can shirk away from taking responsibility. If we don’t do anything (or worse, take some knee jerk reaction like closing down this school), this kind of incident will continue to happen.
If you have had the patience of reading through this far, kindly take another step. Suggest a better solution. Or advise how we can make the above mentioned solution work.
Hanging isn’t enough. Rapists should suffer every minute of their life till they feel why death hasn’t come to them. They should be named and shamed. Everyone should be able to tag them as an outcast. They should watch their own family/relatives spitting on them.
This institution is a sorry excuse for a school. They need to be ashamed to call themselves an educational institution. If they so much as hint that the school is somehow not responsible for the gruesome act, they need to be shut down. Parents get your children out of there NOW.
All school’s in Bangalore give printed details on their diaries – no parent can protest on any issue , if they do so the child will be thrown out of school immediately. We cannot speak to the management of any injustice regarding fee hike or fine per day if we are late, their uniform rates , shoe outsourced & commission given to school management for each outsourcing they do.
All the Bangalore Schools have turned into business institutions & they don’t care to hire professional staff , the management of all schools are well connected to political parties & education department is well fed to cover up issues . Even if parents want to complain on the fee structure they are not encouraged..
Parents think many times to even complain on quality of education after paying lakhs since the school will punish children for any such comments.
How many responsible teachers from VIBGYOR Marathahalli have protested with parents against the management on this issue ? Be it even if their jobs are at stake …
How many staff’s came out & said i will not work in this school anymore with such inhumane management ..
School is 100% accountable. If they are saying no, such schools should be made close or demolish all of their building. They don’t have right to run the institution if they can’t take care of the kid inside their premises.
I heard the name of one of the rapists – XXXXXX. Now that should explain you why spineless media is silent on the names of the predators. xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
SCHOOL HAS TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE outsourced or not. We send our children after taliking to school not outsourced companies. Indemnity forms have no legal value as its one-sided and forced on parents. The perpatrators shuold be severly punished. SCHOOL SHUT BE SHUTDOWN until security measures in place and until the 2 teachers who confined the students are put in jail.
school authorities should be held responsible. They cannot disown the responsiblities as it involved their premise, their staff and more importantly their student. This shows authorities are operating only for their reputation. This is country safe for women and kids and authorities have any emotions towards it ?… dont they have children and grandchildren.? HANG the culprits and arrest the money minded authorities !!!.
Shailaja Nagaraj, cops and school did not share any names with us.
The real truth about these schools and it’s management are now coming out. The importance needs to be not only in counting notes also in the safety of the childrens. The school management is responsible for this incident and to apologize in public/notice for the happened and to ensure for strict safety measures.
School management should be held responsible for children’s safety during school hours. This should be government rule. we all should fight for this.
Firstly – any reason why citizen matters has not names the perpetrators? we shd name them and shame them!!! these kind of incidents if allowed to pass, will only embolden such perverts to do more despicable things!!! how do schools not take responsibility for who ever teaches on their premises? for what happens on their premises!!! they cannot shrug off …. why am i not surprised that the other school that has done this is also where another such incident was reported !!!
We need to hang them in public, to avoid such incidents to repeat. It will be a lesson for others also.