IN THE HIGH COURT OF DELHI AT NEW DELHI
C.M. NO. OF 2012
W.P. (C) No. 4535 of 2010
IN THE MATTER OF
COURT ON ITS OWN MOTION …PETITIONER
GOVERNMENT OF NCT OF DELHI AND MCD
APPLICATION UNDER SECTION 151 CPC BY THE APPLICANT ADVOCATE ASHOK AGARWAL FOR DIRECTIONS
The applicant submits that under the Social Jurist’s RTE-PIL-postcard campaign in association with NGO namely, Sri Ram Goburdhun Chritable Trust (Project Why), students of two government schools namely Rama Krishna Sarvodaya Bal Vidyalaya and Sarvodya Kanya Vidyalaya, and two schools, M.C.D. Primary Boys’ and Girls Schools, situated at Madanpur Khadar were distributed one post-card each and asked to write the problems faced by them in school under sample survey conducted on September 9, 2012. It is submitted that over 200 students participated in the Campaign. However, 181 students (140 of Delhi Government schools and 41 of M.C.D. Schools) wrote postcards addressed to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of this Hon’ble High Court with striking revelations. The most pressing issues that emerged from the exercise can be clubbed under the following heads:
DELHI GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
A. CORPORAL PUNISHMENT/MISBEHAVIOUR BY TEACHERS
(i) The magnitude of prevalence of this archaic form of disciplining children is a matter of great worry. Further, as is apparent from the students’ account, the purpose of hitting or scolding students is far from being reformative, which is invoked as prime defence for continuing with corporal punishment. It is apparent in the instances of corporal punishment as narrated by students in these post-cards that it is motivated by anger or sheer frustration on teachers’ part in being unable to perform their own duties well.
(ii) Various forms of corporal punishment have been illustrated by the students in great details. There is also a general and sweeping tendency of teachers to verbally abuse students. Students of R.K. S.B.V. have specifically mentioned the names of two teachers, Mahendra Singh Chauhan and Ajay Thakur for being consistently abusive in their dealings with students. Students have also mentioned that the abusive behaviour of teachers also discourages students from continuing their studies at the school besides generally agonizing and disturbing them. Some bizarre instances of misbehavior at the hands of teachers have been narrated by students. Some teachers abuse students for asking for a toilet break. Students are also beaten up if they ask for more food in mid-day meals. Some others assault them for asking questions while they do not explain anything by themselves. A student of R.K.S.B.V. alleged beating by a teacher named Tara Chand for pointing out mistakes. Another student has stated that the teachers assault students like cattle and students are unable to express themselves or share their issues with teachers because of their aggressive attitude. A student of S.K.V. has alleged that one of their teachers assaults students all the time and often assaults someone else for another’s mistake. At S.K.V., Madanpur Khadar, a hair-styling code has been imposed upon girls whereby all girls are required to come to school with two pony-tails, those who dare to defy the code or otherwise fail to comply on some days due to shortage of time etc, are beaten up.
(iii) It is common among teachers to assault students with shoes and slippers. The Principal of R.S.S.B.V. allegedly assaulted a student with his shoe for having used the teachers’ toilet, while the students’ toilets are usually locked and unusable even when open. Some teachers hit students by throwing shoes towards them which is a highly condemnable, derogatory and dangerous practice. Girls of S.K.V. allege beatings at the hands of the Principal using her sandals. Girls are also grabbed by their hairs and assaulted with fists and kicks. Students from R.K.S.B.V. have also alleged beatings by kicks. Use of cane is also very commonplace. Students of R.K.S.B.V. have specifically named a teacher Mahendra Singh Chauhan who throws heavy cane towards students. It is needless to say that such practices put students’ safety at peril besides hurting their self esteem and denting into a serious way. Younger (primary) students of R.K.S.B.V. have complained that teachers strip and assault them. As a form of punishment, students are also made to do cleaning and sweeping work, which is in fact a mere pretext to use them as proxies for the missing sweepers who may perhaps be employed only on paper. One can only imagine the plight of students in the highly abusive, violent and humiliating atmosphere of the school.
(iv) The attitude of teachers towards guardians of students is no better. They are ill-treated at the hands of teachers when they come to school. Teachers also in general utter abuses for the parents in front of the students, which is highly agonizing to the students.
(i) Students paint a startling and dismal picture of the conditions in the school. The building which doubles up as a boys’ school as well as a girls’ school in shifts is in a dilapidated condition. The ceilings of the classrooms leak during rains and the contact of water with electrical fittings causes walls to give electric current. There is constant garbage deposition in classrooms and in the school in general. During rains, water which seeps through the ceiling collects in the classrooms and gets mixed with water. In such unhygienic conditions, students have to sit cramped up on the floors as there is no arrangement of desks or even mats. The school becomes breeding ground for insects and mosquitoes. A vacant plot of land behind the school building adds up to the mess as it becomes full of wild growths and mosquitoes, lizards and chameleons from there enter the classrooms through windows. As that ground is also used as a toilet by students in the absence of any usable toilet, the stink is obvious. The school premises are never cleaned.
(ii) Students are made to broom and sweep the classrooms as there are no sweepers that come to school. Sometimes, students are also made to execute minor repairs in the name of “project-work”. Some students of R.K.S.B.V. have alleged that the Principal made them white-wash the classrooms in the name of ‘Project-work”.
(iii) In all classrooms, the desks are either absent or suffice only for about one-third of the class-strength. Rest of the students is forced to sit on the floor under unhygienic conditions which spoils their dresses and also exposes them to insect-bites. Triple-seating, quadruple- seating on benches and sitting on the floor in a cramped position makes reading, writing and concentrating difficult. Heat, suffocation and mosquitoes add to the woes. Electric fittings are also non-existent. There are usually no tube-lights. Fans are absent in some cases and present but non-functional in most cases. Working fans can only be found in teachers’ rooms.
(iv) The condition of drinking water facility in the school deserves a special mention. In the boy’s shift, nearly 3,000 students are enrolled. There are four taps in all, out of which, usually two give out water generally. Even in those two taps, the pressure of water is usually very low. The water-tank is hardly ever cleaned. Students have unequivocally complained about the poor-water quality and frequent occurrence of diseases because of the same. As the toilet facility is almost non-existent, some students urinate near the water-taps. Heaps of garbage, water and urine together constitute a hateful mess.
(v) There are two toilets for students of the entire school. They are almost never cleaned, nor do they have regular water supply. Not bothering to get them cleaned, the school authorities often keep them locked. The students are thus left with no other option but to go to the vacant land-plot behind the school. The boys have to face the embarrassment of attending to their call of nature in the public view. The plight of girls becomes worse in the absence of a proper toilet facility. Some girls take the shield of the wild plants in that vacant land –piece. It is pertinent to mention that the school has girl-students upto class 12th. A lot of them would have crossed puberty and sanitation and privacy is their vital concern. Students often tend to avoid going for toilet altogether. The resultant discomfort is obvious as a school-day runs into several hours. For the teachers, however, there is a proper toilet facility, but it is strictly “For Teachers Only”. In stray incidents, some students brave to use teachers’ toilets in emergency but have to pay a heavy price for it in terms of being beaten up with blows of shoes.
C. OVER-CROWDING IN CLASSROOMS
There is stark paucity of classrooms for both the schools. Usually, two sections accommodate in a single classroom. The number at times rises over 150. The paucity of benches and absence of working fans worsens the situation. Sometimes there is not even enough space on the floor to accommodate all the students. Teacher-audibility and personal interaction with teacher is obviously at a very low level. Teachers are not able to pay attention to all students. Only those students who get to sit in the front are able to pick up what is taught.
D. MID-DAY MEALS
(i) Students have complained of the quality of mid-day meals in unequivocal terms. Not only is the food-preparation poor, but it also lacks hygiene and freshness. Worms, insects and cockroaches are found in meals. Bits of stones are also found in food. The food is stinky. The quantity of food provided is also insufficient. Sometimes, the food is not availed of by all students as it finishes during serving. Very little food is given to each student and students are often beaten up for asking for more. The instance is reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ illustrious literary works! Sometimes, no mid-day meals are provided and when students complain to teachers, they suggest that the students can take extra meals next day!
E. ACADEMIC FACILITIES
(i) Books are provided very late to students. Sometimes, books are provided after exams get over.
(ii) Students are not taken to Science lab at least up to class 8th. The school-infrastructure thus remains unutilized while students suffer due to archaic teaching methods.
(iii) Students have virtually no access to school-library which is also not so well-equipped.
(iv) Students do not get a proper sports period. Even when sports period is conducted, no sports aids are provided to students, so they have nothing beyond the school-ground for the growth of their sports abilities.
(i) Teacher-absenteeism is rampant. Some teachers simply mark attendance and leave the classroom while others leave half-way through the period. Some subject teachers are invariably absent. On an average, just 2-3 periods are conducted in a day as against 6-7 scheduled.
(ii) Students have complained of poor term-planning on part of the teachers who assign them too much of project work in one go during exam time, which affects their performance in exams.
(iii) Some teachers delegate their own work such as list-making and in some cases even test-paper corrections to students, and merely put their own signatures upon corrected papers. In Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya, Teachers have assigned some classes 10th and 11th girls to ensure that no student in school roams outside the class. This could be easily achieved if teachers conducted classes properly. This type of assignment conflicts with the studies of students so employed.
(iv) Some teachers merely write text on the black-board and leave without explaining anything. There is no interaction between teachers and students. The aggressive and rude behaviour of teachers further discourages students form asking questions.
(v) One child has complained that he suffers from frequent fits in school but though he informs the teachers, they do not pay any heed. While every school has a great responsibility towards students’ health, the responsibility of a government school, that too located in a slum-area, is particularly heightened by the fact that the students hail from a low economic strata of the society and their parents are in many cases illiterate and poor and thus, the health problems of these children are largely ignored. If a school ignores such serious symptoms in a child as fits, and the emergency medical assistance available at school is in any case not sufficient, serious casualties may occur any time. Moreover, such problems also conflict with a child’s studies and distract and demoralize him.
G. DISCIPLINARY ISSUES
(i) When the school gets over, all the children rush out which creates a stampede-like situation and students get hurt. Administration is indifferent to the same.
(ii) There are frequent physical fights and abusive exchanges between students. The administration is incapable of safeguarding students and maintaining a peaceful atmosphere among students.
A. CORPORAL PUNISHMENT AND MISBEHAVIOR
(i) The harmful impact of violence, rudeness and abusive behavior upon children of tender age warrants no endorsement or explanation. It is also needless to point out that children are enrolled into M.C.D. schools at a very tender formative age as beginners to the learning process and specially deserve an environment of care and affection. However, the treatment being meted out to them by the M.C.D. schools stands in remarkable contrast to this ideal.
(ii) As is apparent from the account given by the students of M.C.D. schools, almost all the teachers verbally abuse students. They are also beaten up by kicks and sticks. This is true to boys and girls both. One of the students has complained of being kicked for asking for a bigger portion as mid-day meals. They also beaten up if found playing around.
(iii) Some teachers send students back home for late-coming. Although there is nothing cruel about this practice, it is surely not in the interest of the children who cannot themselves be held liable for late-coming on account of their tender age and dependence upon guardians.
B. INFRASTRUCTURE AND AMENITIES
(i) The school infrastructure is totally misfit for running of the school. The ceilings are broken and afford no protection to the students either from the scorching sun, the rains or the winter. There is no play-ground for students. Young children being naturally inclined to playing play around here and there and land up hurting themselves. Administration finds it convenient to invoke the only weapon in their armour, which is to assault them to prevent them from playing, instead of affording them a better provision. Thus, the children of all classes never get to play in their school-hours.
(ii) Classrooms are small and few, inadequate to accommodate the children. Classrooms are also insufficiently ventilated.
(iii) The electrical fittings including fans and tube-lights are mostly broken or non-functional. On top of it, electric supply is so frequently interrupted that they are of no use any way. Almost every child has complained about the same.
(iv) Desks are very few, a lot of them broken. In M.C.D. Primary Boys’ School, only class 5th students have some desks to sit on. Some torn durries are sometimes provided to supplement them, which are again too few. As a result, most of the students are constrained to sit on the dirty floor.
(v) The maintenance and upkeep of the poor infrastructure is even poorer. The classrooms are not regularly broomed. The entire school premises are unhygienic. The toilets in particular are worst affected by the neglect of hygiene. They remain very unclean. As per one students’ account, teachers sometimes make the little children clean the toilets.
(vi) The drinking water supply is usually interrupted. The water which is occasionally available is very dirty and misfit for drinking purposes.
C. MID-DAY MEALS
(i) The quality and quantity of mid-day meals served both areas of problem. Children are served very meagre amount of food. Sometimes, only some children get food and other remain empty-stomach. The insufficiency of food given as mid-day meals further supplements the vice of corporal punishment as those children who dare to ask for more food are often beaten up, by kicks in some cases.
(ii) The quality and hygiene of food remains very low. Worms and cock-roaches are very commonly found in food.
D. TEACHERS’ WORK-SHIRKING
The young children give a remarkable account of teachers’ work-shirking. Most of the students have complained that teachers indulge in rampant absenteeism and late-coming. Even the Principal of MC.D. Primary Boys’ School is a habitual late-comer and comes very late to school. Interestingly, the same teachers treat late-coming students very strictly and send them back home. However, what is more crucial and graver is that teachers do not teach in class. This has been stated by almost every student that teachers do not teach properly or do not teach at all. Multiple students of M.C.D. Primary Boys’ School have complained that teachers play Cricket in school instead of taking classes. It is submitted that the magnitude of the problem is obvious since Cricket cannot be played by a single teacher. It is a team-sport that surely reflects the team spirit and unity of the teachers in work-shirking. Ironically, it is the same teachers who do not allow students to play and beat them up for doing so.
E. ADMINISTRATIVE ISSUES
(i) There is paucity of teachers in the school. A single teacher usually teaches all the subjects to one class. The teachers’ inadequacy to tackle all the subjects reflects in the class-results in terms of high failure-rates.
(ii) There is also no gate-keeper employed in the school. Thus, children often flee from school after getting their attendance marked. This could be a serious security issue as firstly, the children who so flee expose them to the dangers of an unguarded environment without the knowledge or their guardians. There is a custody and guardianship vacuum created for that period. Secondly, not having a gate-keeper implies that anyone, including any anti-social element may enter the premises and endanger the security of the children. Some students have complained of boys from a nearby school, apparently senior to those incumbent, entering the school premises and assaulting the children. It is needless to say that schools’ responsibility is not restricted to teaching, administration is equally important, particularly in case of younger children of primary schools.
It is respectfully submitted that the Hon’ble Supreme Court in its celebrated judgment dated 12.04.2012 in case of Society For Unaided Private Schools of Rajasthan vs Union of India and another (2012) 6 SCC 1, while upholding the constitutional validity of the provisions of RTE Act, 2009 held that RTE means “quality education”. The aforementioned revelations by the students of Delhi government and M.C.D. schools clearly establish that even after 65 years of independence and nearly three years of RTE Act, 2009 coming into force, the standard of education in these public funded schools has not improved despite huge public expenditure. It is submitted that the State funded schools are the only hope for the children of masses. It is respectfully submitted that the authorities responsible to provide quality education to the children are observing the provisions of the RTE Act more in breach than compliance. It is submitted that these authorities need to be taken to task by this Hon’ble Court for violation of the fundamental and human right to education of nearly 25 lacs children studying in these Delhi Government and M.C.D. Schools as guaranteed to them under Article 14, 15, 21, 21-A, 38 and 51-A of the Constitution of India read with the provisions of RTE Act, 2009 and further read with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).
It is, therefore, most humbly prayed that necessary directions as this Hon’ble Court may deem fit and proper in the present facts and circumstances of this case be issued to Delhi Government and Municipal Corporation of Delhi.
NEW DELHI 483, BLOCK II, LAWYERS’ CHAMBERS
Dated: 18.09.2012 DELHI HIGH COURT, NEW DELH-110003