School, Shock, Sensation, Silly Solutions

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The tragic and awful incidents of sexual abuse and murder of a 7-year old student inside the premises of his school in Gurugram followed by the gruesome rape of a 5-year old pupil in a school of Delhi sends shivers down one’s spine. They fill one with revulsion and disgust at the depravity of a few members of society whose monstrosity lurks from behind their façade of ordinary citizenship. To India’s utter misfortune, the state wakes up to the callousness of the authorities concerned, on every such occasion, after the physical and psychological existence of the victim is irreparably damaged and his/her future is subjected to precariousness. The rules to avoid such untoward incidents are simple and easy to adhere to — separating the lavatories of boy and girl students, teachers, support staff and hired individuals, for example, and strict observation of the code — but they are practised more in breach. The situation aggravates when television channels get into the TRP hunt, sensationalising the issue and blowing stories out of proportion. Emotions run high after a perpetrator attacks, leading to chaos, activism and damage to public and private property thereafter. To what avail? The outrage has never been able to pre-emptively strike the dangers of the future. Yet, it’s not the anger that is misplaced; it’s voyeurism of 24×7 channels that must end forthwith. Their mostly inane questions notwithstanding, the television journalists subject the kin of the victim — at times no less than the surviving victim — to undue probes.

Then the profession that is primarily supposed to inform begins opinionating through commentaries and debates (never documentaries), often without an iota of knowledge of the spot where the incident occurred. There have been quite a few instances in the past where an unfortunate turn of events was wrongly reported — for example, a child who died while walking normally through a corridor of his school due to an epileptic attack was reported to have fallen off the second floor some years ago — and an innocent but bewildered principal kept running for cover, fearing for her and her family’s security, for months on end. While the anger of parents and concerned guardians of wards is absolutely justifiable here again, the acts of the hoodlums who have penetrated their groups to wreak havoc in the neighbourhood where the schools are situated cannot be condoned.

With the thirst for inciting the mobs still unquenched, the media finally enters a wrong discourse, now dragging in the nation-state. Seventy years of failed but incorrigible socialism surfaces in the narrative, as some panellists demand that all schools be nationalised — as though government schools, with far less resource and much more callous attitude, are incident-proof! A government that cannot ensure primary education for 100% children of the country while spending billions on a motley group of pampered university students can, according to media commentators, take up this humongous, additional responsibility. And then the nation waits, dreaded, for the next mishap.

There is but a solution that is the closest to being foolproof. The security protocol must be turned automated, and minimal, closely scrutinised staff should be put through the drill to get used to the mechanics of the system. They alone ought to have access to the operations. This will be more judicious than listening to another wild, desperate and presumptuous call by the ‘experts’: Have an all-woman staff in every school! Of course, the arrest, trial and sentencing of the criminal must be prompt to intimidate potential criminals, but these steps follow the crime. Not one more incident of the kind must be allowed to occur.

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