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Molestation cases rise in Mumbai, parents, schools, bus owners slug it out

With the school bus safety policy yet to be implemented, parents, schools and school bus owners are playing the blame game, accusing each other of not doing enough for the kids’ safety

Even as cases of students being molested by school bus personnel are on the rise, the uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the school bus safety policy has led to parents, schools and school bus owners blaming each other for not doing enough to ensure the kids’ safety.

Bus owners say they rarely see any representation of PTAs in the district-level school bus committee meetings that are held regularly. Pic For representation
Bus owners say they rarely see any representation of PTAs in the district-level school bus committee meetings that are held regularly. Pic For representation

While parents have blamed school managements and school bus owners for not showing enough interest in the issue, the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) says that parents should play a bigger role and Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) in school should be more active.

“Most schools still don’t even have the school bus committee in place, which is essential as per the school bus safety policy. We rarely see any representation of PTAs in the district-level school bus committee meetings that are held regularly,” said Anil Garg, president of SBOA. He added that the district-level meetings, headed by the commissioner of police, also rarely see any representation from the education department.

“While the government is still clueless on how to go about implementing the policy, the onus of ensuring the safety of children seems to have fallen on us alone,” he added. As per the last draft copy of the school bus safety policy, a school bus committee is supposed to be headed by the school principal and, other than parents and teachers, the committee should also have representatives from the local police station and local leaders.

Many private school managements have, however, objected to outsiders being part of the school bus committee. The Unaided Private Schools’ Forum wrote to the education and transport commissioner recently, outlining their reasons for this. While many schools have already put the committee in place, parents and activists of other schools are still fighting with managements to ensure that this is done. Parents say the schools have not been cooperative.

“Many schools still don't have a functional PTA in place and the managements have been very adamant. While parents want to be involved in the core processes of the school, they are shunned by the management. We feel helpless,” said a PTA member of a Thane school.

Arundhati Chavan, president of the PTA United Forum, said, “Parents are willing to be more active in the implementation of the school bus safety policy, but the government needs to bring the policy in place quickly, so that those who flout rules are punished. We will write to the education and transport commissioners to inform us about developments and ensure parents’ involvement.”

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