Time To Regulate Private Schools Of Manipur
Stop Harassing Students, Guardians & Transporters By Private Schools

Ibetombi Pebam *

Manipur increasingly has seen an emerging trend of unchecked proliferation and mushrooming of private schools and many instances of exploitation of students, their guardians and transporters by such schools, especially those set up purely for profit motives. Such schools at times, are blinded by their business interests and often go beyond the ethics associated with promoting right to education.

The media of Manipur continued to expose the exploitative tendencies of such private schools, time in and out. An example in case is the media reflections on continued harassment of students, guardians of students and transporters by the Shishu Nishtha Niketan, a CBSE school situated in residential areas of Mayaikoibi, Imphal West. Quite recently, the school authorities were subjected to wide criticism by student's organizations of Manipur because of its skyrocketing high fees.

Then, the confrontation with the transporters as the school authorities tried hard to discontinue their service while trying to set up school managed transporters and then very recently in end September 2013, confrontation with guardians of students over multiple threats issued by school authorities to use transports authorized by them and to pay hefty fines etc etc.

The recent threatening directive by the Shishu Nishtha Niketan (SNN) School authorities to the guardians of students to pay Rs. 1500 and to send their wards to school only by transports, authorized by the School authorities and further threat to disallow their wards in admission for non compliance, is yet another evidence of the school's irresponsible and immature management complementing its exploitative tendencies.

As one acknowledges the Honorable Supreme Court (SC) order of 2011 to ensure more responsibility of schools to ensure students safety, there is no clear cut provision in the ruling which entrusts private schools to assume strict control and management of all transport for students. It is unfortunate that the Supreme Courts noble ruling is being exploited for business interest by SNN school authorities. The application of SC orders again should not come at the cost of communities and causing inconveniences to them, such as parking polluting fleet of buses in community area.

Moreover, the SC ruling of 2011 is more of regulating school buses. The Shishu Nishtha Niketan not only misinforms but also misinterprets the Supreme Court rulings only to advance its exploitative profit motives in the guise of student's safety. Will the Shishu Nishtha Niketan able to strictly comply with the directives of the Supreme Court in its transports? And who will monitor such compliance?

And will its transporters full proof of any mechanical failures or any other untoward incidents? In addition, there are complaints already that the transporters managed by Shishu Nishtha Niketan, in compliance with Supreme Court has over charged guardian of students, as much as twice the normal monthly fees, which is a serious economic exploitation of guardians.

It would be worthwhile for the school authorities of SNN to be fully aware that the safety of students can be best secured with the close coordination of school authorities and transporters and not necessarily by unilateral impositions of selective and arbitrary restrictions. What rules of India and Manipur allows such arbitrary restrictions and harassment by the private schools to their students, guardians and transporters? Who should enforce SC orders, private schools or the Government? It's interesting to note the over enthusiasm of some school such as SNN authorities to refer to selective Supreme Court orders and not for a holistic applications.

The Shishu Nishtha Niketan while emphasizing on Supreme Court and CBSE guidelines for school, interestingly omits and sidelined other guidelines for establishment of Private Schools. Is deploying a fleet of school buses without parking space right in the middle of residential areas in sanctioned by Supreme Court or in consonance with CBSE guidelines? Like many other private schools, the Shishu Nishtha Niketan School also already caused huge inconvenience not just to the denizens of Mayaikoibi village by its huge fleet of buses, causing congestion and pollutions in the middle of residential area. How come the School authorities have no playground of its own? By regularly relying on the community ground of Mayaikoibi, the school authorities is simply intruding into community space and creating additional inconveniences on communities in and around.

More particularly, are the school authorities aware that students cannot be subjected, under any circumstances, into physical and mental harassment, as it has done so, to students for not using transports, authorized by the schools? This is also a clear violation of the Rights of the Child, as also sanctioned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is a serious matter, which deserves a full scale intervention from all concerned. A private school cannot simply undermine such universal rights.

What is the safety norms set by SNN within the school campus for students? Is the SNN School authorities aware of how many students are permitted in classrooms under CBSE and Supreme Court Guidelines, and are they really practicing those, if they are really into those guidelines? Any arbitrary practices and harassment of students and their guardians only reflects the irresponsible nature and unprofessionalism of those managing the school.

After all these controversies, as regularly reflected in the media, Why is the Government of Manipur not framing rules to control and regulate the functions of Private Schools, which increasingly are running like mafias and exploitative corporate bodies in Manipur. One wonders how the Government of Manipur allows massive proliferation of Private Schools, which are set up purely for profit motives without any regulations.

Many private schools are also responsible for destroying our farmland. The harassment is not just the students but also to the teachers and other workers within the school premises. The harassment met to teachers on wages, on provision of their basic facilities as workers, etc continues to be neglected for long. Should we allow private school to practice notoriety, to exploit our land, our people and our society and whether the Government should turn a blind eye to such adverse reality? Manipur cannot be reduced to another wild wild West, where guns & power rule the roost.

It is high time for the private schools of Manipur and Shishu Nishtha Niketan School, in particular, to completely relish the notion that students, the guardians and transport associations can be exploited and harassed with its patronage with the security, legal luminaries, politicians, bureaucrats etc. There's the concept of Right to Education, which guarantees full right of students.

It would be worthwhile for the school authorities of Shishu Nishtha Niketan and other private schools to note that there are people who monitors and cares for its people and who would not tolerate the exploitation and harassment of its people in the name of education. Education is the bedrock for the progress and development of Manipur society and as such, it is too risky to reduce education process with commercialization and as business industry, which works on exploitation of workers et al.

In the light of the unfolding adverse reality associated with private schools of Manipur, the Government of Manipur should on an urgent basis:

1) Formulate a policy to regulate the establishment and functioning of Private Schools of Manipur and Implementation of the RTE, CBSE guidelines, and Supreme Court orders in its true spirit.
2) Put an end to all forms of exploitation and harassment by private schools to their students, guardians and transporters and prosecute all those school authorities pursuing such practices
3) Investigate the unchecked nuisance caused by Private Schools, such as Shishu Nishtha Niketan in residential areas, who established schools without parking places and without playgrounds.
4) Urge all private schools to stop parking polluting school Buses in residential areas.
5) Further, all Private Schools of Manipur, including Shishu Nishtha Niketan should close down private schools run by irresponsible and unprofessional people
6) Stop causing further harassment to their students, their parents and to all schools transporters
7) Promote the best interest of the child and students with due consultation of guardians, students and school transporters for all safety measures of students
8) Stop selective, arbitrary and phony reference to Supreme Court orders and other laws of the land.
9) Stop creating further inconveniences to denizens of communities affected by their deployment of polluting bus fleets, including in Mayaikoibi and Kwakeithel area.

* Ibetombi Pebam wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao (English Edition)
The writer is a resident of Kwakeithel, Imphal Manipur
This article was posted on October 02, 2013.

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