For many students of this suburban school, the mere act of reaching the classroom every day involves an arduous, uphill climb. And parents aren’t happy. Furious guardians have raised an outcry at Kandivli Education Society (KES) over their children being denied access to lifts and being forced to take the stairs all the way up to the seventh floor, with their bags weighing them down. The powers that be at the school, however, deny any such proscription, but maintain that they “encourage” their students to trudge up seven floors to give them their daily dose of “physical activity”.
When this reasonably fit reporter tried to scale the stairs, heavy breathing set in at a height of three floors, followed by utter exhaustion. For students of the school this is a daily inevitability in the new school building, which is located in Kandivli (West) and rises to a height of eight floors.
Parents of Std VIII students were embroiled in a heated argument with school authorities on Monday over the issue. RTI activist Mehul Kataria said, “Parents are fed up with the attitude of the authorities at KES. The authorities don’t allow the students to use the lift, which is unfair. A single student carries a bag that weighs anything between three and six kg. The school does not observe many practices that could ensure the safety of children, but neither the BMC nor the fire brigade take note of it or carry out inspections.”
In course of its investigations, MiD DAY learnt that that a Std III student lugs around a bag that weighs an average of 3.5 kg, while children in Std VIII carry bags weighing around 7 kg on a daily basis. The building has two lifts. The fourth floor of the building houses classrooms for Stds II to IV, while the fifth sixth and seventh floors house the secondary section of the school, from Stds V to X. Third-year degree college students are using the eighth floor for now.
Huffing and puffing
Aarti Chowdhary (names of students and parents changed), a student in the secondary section, said, “I climb up to the seventh floor every day with my heavy bag. I get exhausted by the time I reach the fourth floor. You won’t imagine how much we struggle to get to the seventh floor.”
Another student Deepa Lad said, “There was a parents’ meeting on Monday, where our parents argued with the school authorities on the issue of the lift. The school only wants unwell or physically disabled students to use the lift.”
Shikha Mishra, parent of a Std I student, said, “My child climbs till the third floor and I know that she gets tired. Already, they are carrying their heavy school bags, so why aren’t they allowed to use the lift? On one occasion I forced my way into the lift with the child, even as the guard tried to stop me.”
Another parent Meena Pawar echoed, “We start feeling tired when we climb even three floors of any building. Won’t our child feel exhausted by the time she reaches the seventh floor? If a child is not feeling well and still goes to school, the school asks for a medical certificate before allowing him or her to use the lift. When we tell the school authorities we want to meet the principal, they don’t let us.”
The Other Side
Principal Sangeeta Srivastava said, “We have never stopped students from using the lift. This is a false allegation. The parents have complained to me about this issue but I have told them that students are allowed to use the lift. If students wish to take the stairs, we encourage them, as this involves physical activity and the kids hardly play much these days. I also tell parents to encourage kids to use the stairs rather than take the lift. I climb up to the seventh floor and have never faced any problem. Problems crop up in the afternoon when the pre-primary section starts and children come in, while students of the secondary section are leaving. Our school has both Gujarati and English medium, and our premises become crowded. So it may be that students take the stairs as they want to reach class on time. Students of our degree college, which is located on the eighth floor, are using the lift. Our new college building is under construction and the college will soon be shifted there. Another life will be added to the building for students to use.”
Dr Pradeep Bhosale, head of the orthopaedic department in KEM hospital, said, “It is an unhealthy practice if the children are carrying heavy weights on their back and climbing up to the seventh floor every day. The weight can sprain their bones. It should definitely be avoided. This can cause the child to stoop. It can cause adverse effects on the growth of the spine bone and the height of the child.”
7kg The average weight of a Std VIII student’s school bag