Around 1.30 pm every day, the Wadi Bandar BMC School at Bombay Port Trust Colony opens its gates for 32 students, their teachers, and a few other employees. Then the lock is put back on and the institute remains out of bounds till parents arrive to pick up their wards at 5.30 pm.
This curious practice has been in effect since June 2012, when the Mumbai Public School (MPS) run by an NGO started operating from the premises. And the intention is to discourage loiterers who consume drugs and play cards right outside the building. Startlingly, the school does not have a security guard.
Rules prohibit the sale of tobacco products within 100 yards of educational institutes to keep kids safe. The state government has asked principals to report any infringement to education inspectors, ward officers, district collectors and local police stations.
However, the risk faced by this school and its students is different and more acute. MPS currently only has a junior kindergarten section, which runs from 1.30 pm till 5.30 pm in a room in the first floor of the building. The morning school is for Marathi medium students and classes for Std II to Std V function on the ground floor. Sources say the building is in a dilapidated condition and appears unsafe.
Prema Shetty (name changed), whose child studies at MPS, said, “We leave our children at 1.30 pm and come back at 5.30 pm. Till then the school gate is fastened with a chain and lock. If we are too late or too early we have to either call out the teachers at the top of our voices or phone them up to open the lock. It was a collective decision to keep the gates locked because a group of drug addicts sit outside the school.”
“We used to feel unsafe earlier, as there is no security guard. The junkies used to come and sit on the staircase of the school. They even played cards and smoked. Occasionally the teachers shouted at them and tried to shoo them away. They and the parents also sent a written complaint to BMC’s education department, but to no avail,” said Amina Sheikh (name changed), parent of another MPS student.
Echoing these sentiments, Dilip Kamble, father of one of the school’s students, said, “Whenever I have come here to take my child home, I have seen dopers roaming nearby.” One of the teachers, who did not wish to be named, said, “We had to adopt this measure because sometimes these people would enter the compound, and at times even urinate on the premises.”
‘We didn’t know’
Speaking to MiD DAY, Deo Charate, deputy education officer, BMC, said, “I was not aware that drug addicts sit outside the school since I haven’t received any complaint in this regard. Perhaps, the complaint has gone to our administrative officer. We will definitely take note of this issue and try to resolve the problem.”
Yamini Jadhav, corporator of E (207) ward and member of BMC’s education committee, said, “I have raised the issue of providing security guards to civic body schools in this budget. I didn’t know that the Wadi Bandar BMC school that is in my ward has a security issue.
I will visit the school on Monday and will make sure that it gets all the help needed.” Assuring that the matter will be looked into, education officer, BMC, Ravindra Bhise said, “We will try our level best to help the school. However, I have no idea what problems it is facing right now.”
Students in the morning Marathi medium school