Mumbai schools tell cops to prepare kids for crises

While Mumbai police have been visiting schools and asking them to reinforce security, principals say US-style security drills for staff and students will help more

It’s been less than a week that nine Pakistan Taliban terrorists stormed into a school in Peshawar and killed 132 children. The attack, being described as the most ghastly in the country’s recent history, has left law enforcement authorities across the globe concerned about security in schools.

Vandana Lulla, principal, Podar International School
Vandana Lulla, principal, Podar International School

In Mumbai, the city police have been approaching schools, pointing out changes that need to be implemented to tighten security measures. However, the schools insist that instead of beefing up security, it’s time to make the staff and students prepared to handle such crisis situations.

“Increasing the height of school boundary walls, installing more CCTVs or frisking people at the school gate will change little in terms of security. Instead of putting children behind layers of security and rules and regulations, we should focus on their preparedness in case of crises,” said Vandana Lulla, principal of Podar International School in Santacruz and director of the eponymous group of schools.

She added that schools in many countries conduct safety drills for their staff and students and follow a method of complete lockdown, where students are asked to lock themselves in a room and switch off the lights.“The focus needs to be on preparing students and making them more aware. Many schools in the city still are not sure how to handle their students in case a fire breaks out, which is scary,” she added.

Most schools have already installed CCTVs on the premises and forged stricter entry and exit rules for outsiders. But what worries principals is that no school can predict an incident as heinous as the Peshawar attack, and thus, increasing security on paper will be of no help.

“The best of security measures will fail in case of a major crisis. The focus should be on making staff and children more cautious and aware. We have already started frisking and monitoring people entering and leaving our school, but at the same time we’ve also decided to have discussions with our children to talk about precautions in case of an emergency,” said Rekha Shahani, principal of Kamla High School in Khar.

Some schools in the city have also got specific orders from local police stations to increase security measures within school premises. A school in Bandra was asked to repair their damaged boundary wall, as well as note down information of all outsiders seeking to enter the school.

“We were asked to make sure that we have a security guard at the gate all day and to note down information of people entering our school. We have already informed the cops that our boundary wall is going to be repaired within the next 10 days; it was already on our agenda,” said the head of the school.

She added that many schools in the vicinity also got a visit from cops, and their pointers on the safety measures to be implemented.

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