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Gang-rape Of Class 5 Student: Delhi MCD Schools Continue To Be A Ticking Time Bomb

Recently, a Class 5 student was allegedly gang-raped by a peon working in an MCD-run school and his three accomplices in Delhi. The incident exposed major security lapses in the schools. This deep-dive investigative report reveals the ground situation in MCD schools in the national capital. Schools without security guards or attendants; whiskey bottles and used injection syringes strewn all around in school premises; teenagers caught on tape having marijuana; cows and buffaloes grazing in the school lawns; cigarettes, beedis and used matches thrown all around in classrooms - MCD schools in Delhi are a disaster waiting to happen.

By Vikas Mavi
New Update

publive-image Whiskey bottles; used injection syringes; litter scattered all around in the school premises is what we found at the Trilokpuri MCD Primary School in Delhi | Photo courtesy: The Probe

A gruesome gang-rape incident of a class 5 student was reported in an MCD school in Delhi. The incident that took place on March 14 sent shivers down the spine of parents who send their children to these schools that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi runs.

A peon of an MCD school and his three associates allegedly gang-raped the class 5 student after the victim was injected with sedatives. It has been reported that the four men took turns raping the young girl, and after the incident, the suspect is said to have brought the victim back to the school. The girl narrated the incident to her mother after she returned home from school.

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) issued notices to the Delhi government after taking suo motu cognisance of the case. While the NHRC has asked for a report from the Chief Secretary of Delhi, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi Commissioner and the Delhi police commissioner, we take a deeper look into the condition of MCD schools in Delhi and why they continue to pose a major security risk for the students.

Our investigation found that many MCD schools in Delhi are a critical risk to children, and these education centres are a disaster waiting to happen. Schools being used as a garbage dump yard; whiskey bottles and used injection syringes strewn all around in school premises; teenagers caught on tape having marijuana; cows and buffaloes grazing in front of the school lawns; cigarettes, beedis and used matches thrown around in classrooms - most of these schools show what the government has been trying to hide: absolute neglect of young children and as Right To Education activist Ashok Agarwal explains “a massive show of class divide where the government believes that the poor will not hold them to account as most children who study in these schools are from marginalised communities”.

publive-image Garbage dump at MCD Primary School in Gharoli in Delhi. The School has no board | Photo courtesy: The Probe

Most schools we visited had no security guards, CCTV cameras or attendants. When we visited the MCD Primary School in Gharoli in Delhi, we were taken aback to find that the school neither had a board nor a security guard stationed at the gate. A massive pile of garbage was on either side of the gate, and animals were inside the school premises. Inside the campus, we found that there were no basic amenities for children. The school did not have drinking water facilities for the children, and the parents complained that they had still not received the grant from the government that was assured to them.

Birvati, who sends two of her children to the school in Gharoli, says: “The school doesn’t have a drinking water facility, and the children have been asked to carry their own water bottles. During the summers, how many water bottles can these small children carry? We have still not received any grant from the government. The school is supposed to have a security guard at the gate, but we hardly see it being manned by anyone.”

Rubina Baru, another mother who sends two of her children to the school in Gharoli, told The Probe that though the school provides mid-day meals to children, they don’t give them water. “Our children have to carry water bottles to school. Summers are approaching, and this is a huge concern for us.”

Section 42 of the Delhi Municipal Corporation Act, 1957 states that it is an obligatory function of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to provide free and compulsory primary education to all the children of age groups 5 to 11 years residing in its jurisdiction. The education department of MCD claims that it provides facilities like free school uniforms, jerseys, shoes and socks, textbooks, mid-day meals, health cover, scholarships, and physical and science education for children. However, mothers like Birvati and Rubina say that apart from books and mid-day meal schemes, the school authorities have not provided their children with any other facility.

publive-image A dog was found exiting the main gate of MCD Primary School in Gharoli in Delhi. No security guard was at the gate when our team visited the school | Photo courtesy: The Probe

This is not just the condition of one MCD school. We found that most of these schools were in deplorable conditions. In an MCD Primary School in Trilokpuri, we found gutka/betel quid wrappers thrown all over, bottles of whiskey and even used injection syringes scattered inside the school premises.

The school had broken walls and window panes, defective pipes, paan-spit stains on the wall and what’s worse, we found cigarettes and beedis and used matchsticks strewn all around in the classrooms.

As we probed further, we found that there were no security guards in the school. Vikrant (name changed), a tuition teacher in Trilokpuri who imparts private coaching to MCD school children, states that the school does not have security guards because of which private individuals walk into the school campus and carry out illicit activities in the premises, which is a major security risk to the children.

“It’s a government school, and the condition is so pathetic. Private individuals can walk into this school and do whatever they please. Some people have made this school their playground. I know people who use this school premises to drink alcohol with their friends. Many parents are concerned about the security situation of this school. Who will take responsibility if tomorrow there is a mishap in this school like the one that happened with the other MCD school related to the Class 5 child? This school gives free entry to criminals looking for a place to do their nefarious activities, which has been going unchecked for so many years now,” asserts Vikrant.

publive-image (Left) Teenagers caught smoking marijuana in MCD Pratibha Vidyalaya in Trilokpuri | (Right) Cigarettes, beedis and used match sticks found strewn all around in Trilokpuri MCD Primary School in Delhi | Photo courtesy: The Probe

So, why are these schools not secured? Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has been saying that the standards of the MCD schools in Delhi will be made at par with international schools. In a recent event, the Chief Minister said that his government would work towards fixing 1800 schools under the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and make Delhi the centre of education in the world. But far from it, our investigation found that the MCD schools do not even have basic facilities for children, and the schools themselves have become centres that infringe the children’s rights, posing a huge risk to their life, health and well-being.

We looked deeper at what has been plaguing these MCD schools and why successive governments have been unable to fix them. Devender Kumar, Assistant Director of Education, Shahdara South, government of NCT of Delhi, told The Probe that the schools had been given clear instructions to keep the gates closed and the premises secured. But he admits that these schools have not had regular security guards for years.

“I know this is a sorry state of affairs, but for years we have been trying to put in place a system where security guards are brought in to man the gates at all times. However, this has not become a reality. We still don’t have CCTVs in our schools, and many of our schools don’t even have attendants. The vacancies have not been filled for so many years. Since 1998, the attendants have not been recruited,” states Kumar.

Amit Kumar, Director (P&I) of MCD, told The Probe that it is a matter of grave concern that despite the recent assault on the Class 5 student, the MCD schools have not stepped up their security. “It’s a matter of huge concern for us. If your investigation has revealed that the situation is so pathetic and if this is really happening, then we will ensure that whoever is responsible for this will be taken to task. After the gangrape of the Class 5 student, we issued instructions to all the schools regarding the entry and exit policy that needs to be adopted by the schools. However, it is concerning to us if the schools are not following these guidelines. The department will take these breaches very seriously.”

publive-image We found cows and buffaloes grazing in an MCD Primary School in West Vinod Nagar in Delhi | Photo courtesy: The Probe

In an MCD Primary School in West Vinod Nagar in Delhi, we were shocked to find cows and buffaloes grazing inside the school. In another MCD school in Delhi, Pratibha Sah Shiksha Vidyalaya, our team found a few teenagers smoking marijuana inside the school premises. Many in the vicinity told The Probe that since there are no security guards at the gate, private entities use the school premises in the evening hours for illicit activities.

The Probe spoke to the Chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Priyank Kanungo. He notes that the schools are unsafe for the children and need an overhaul.

“The MCD schools are not safe for children. The sexual assault on the Class 5 student should not just be seen as one incident. This is not the first time such an incident has happened in MCD schools in Delhi. Safety and security have been a matter of grave concern as far as these schools are concerned. We have always noticed that whenever an untoward incident occurs, be it the Delhi government, the MCD authorities, or the school authorities; they always try to hide the matter. The government has initiated no sensitisation measures. Teachers are not equipped to handle these instances. There are no counsellors. The problems are plenty,” avers Kanungo.

Kanungo notes that the NCPCR has sent several circulars to the schools and highlighted the issues plaguing them, but the school authorities have yet to respond. “I have personally visited several MCD schools and have seen that the conditions are so deplorable that words can’t describe the state of affairs these schools are in. The sad part is that the authorities who govern these schools have normalised this way of running the schools.”

Many educationists and experts say that this normalisation is what has given rise to the abuse and exploitation of children in these schools. The family of the girl child whom the school peon and his associates gang-raped are yet to come to terms with the incident. Speaking to The Probe, Preeti Bharadwaj Dalal, the member in charge of law relating to children at the NCPCR, said that a fact-finding committee has been set up on the instructions of the chairperson to delve deeper into the issue related to the gang-rape.

“We are shocked by what happened in that MCD school. We visited the school with the team and spoke to the school authorities, the investigating officers from the police department, the Delhi Commission for Women counsellors and social workers and several others. We met the victim and the mother, and we submitted our report. This is an extremely serious incident and raises severe concerns on the safety and security of children in these schools."

publive-image The toilets and children’s washroom were in a deplorable condition in the East Delhi Municipal Corporation school in Mayur Vihar Phase 3 | Photo courtesy: The Probe

Some of these schools are so unhygienic that children cannot access safe drinking water or hygienic washrooms. In East Delhi Municipal Corporation school in Mayur Vihar Phase 3, we found utterly unhygienic toilets with no water facility. The washrooms were in such deplorable conditions that they posed serious health risks to children. This raises serious questions about what the school administrations have been doing and why the Delhi government needs to pay more attention to these schools and make these school authorities accountable.

Advocate Ashok Agarwal, who actively crusades on issues related to the Right To Education, health and work, says the MCD should take responsibility for the poor functioning of these schools. “The mindset of the authorities needs to be changed first. They feel that poor kids study in these schools and, therefore, there is no one to hold the authorities accountable. In the past, I have seen children sitting on the ground, and an entire hall was given to a security guard to use as he pleases. The condition is really pathetic,” rues Agarwal.

publive-image Staff chewing betel leaves and spitting on the walls in front of the classroom is a regular affair in this MCD Primary School in Trilokpuri | Photo courtesy: The Probe

The Delhi High Court had earlier appointed advocate Ashok Agarwal as an amicus curiae and asked the panel of lawyers to inspect schools under the Delhi administration and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi to ascertain how safe these schools are for children. The panel in 2019 stated that at least 40 per cent of girls studying in these schools go to schools without having breakfast. The panel said that the conditions in the schools were very poor. There were no CCTV cameras in the schools, government offices occupied classrooms, and many children had to manage with leftover places in laboratories and halls.

Agarwal notes that several years have passed since he inspected the institutions and submitted a report with guidelines to the court, but much has stayed the same in these schools. “There is no one to maintain the toilets or even the classrooms. There is total neglect. This is nothing but administrative neglect. When in the past, I asked some teachers how they managed to use washrooms when there were no hygienic toilets, and they told me that they went to the neighbours’ house. In the last two decades, we have not seen any improvement in these schools. I can clearly say that in the last many years, at least 300 schools have been shut down. Earlier, the students’ strength was 10 lakh plus, but today it is about half that number,” states Agarwal.

He adds, “The school premises need to be secured. What if there is a major security lapse in these schools? Don’t we keep our homes safe? When these schools are not safeguarded, then it means that the government does not even think that these children deserve to be in a safe environment. This shows nothing but a colossal class divide in the heart of the national capital. People just believe that because these children come from marginalised sections, they don’t have the right to get educated in a clean and safe environment. The government thinks that they are doing a favour to these children by providing them with free education".

This week, Delhi education minister Atishi stressed the need for providing international-level training to MCD school teachers, which will help them impart quality education to their students.  While free and compulsory education is the fundamental right of every child in India, the question is when the Delhi government will stop paying lip service and lay the groundwork to revamp the schools and make them safer and more secure for children.