The unfortunate series of events that befell on a wonderful child, set in motion by the very souls who were duty bound to protect her has now gradually receded from the public memory. The state education machinery, caught off-guard, as usual, went into knee-jerk reaction mode, slapping criminal cases against 186 city schools in Bangalore for not implementing the hastily put-together safety guidelines for schools. The deadline was August 31, 2014 and the school managements have , on their turn recorded their inabilities as grievances in enforcing them, for which a Special Cell has now been created to look into it.
The city is back to the daily grind, till the next unfortunate turn of events bring it out to the streets. There is, but, a fundamental aspect of the entire process of organized education for children that the entire media and the community has missed out even now, which is in fact frightening – that of the rise and rise of Play schools in India including Daycare centers in the cities of India.
Take Bangalore city, for instance. An uncontrolled, haphazard rise of Play schools & Daycare centers is clearly visible in any urban pocket of the Garden city, and it is deeply chilling on two levels :
1. One does not need any official clearances, affiliations nor qualifications to begin a Play school in India.
2. The state of Karnataka’s education department has no clue on the number of Play schools in the city, forget the entire state
The State Education department, which regulates the educational institutions of Karnataka is oblivious ( deliberate or callous, we are yet to know ) to a level of education or activity-based education that exists for pre-school children. There is no other explanation for the lack of control that exists in pre-school education in the state.
The Karnataka Education Act insists in Section V of its regulations that :
30. Educational institutions to be registered.-
(1) Save as otherwise provided in this Act, every local authority institution and every private educational institution established on or before the date of commencement of this Act or intended to be established thereafter, shall not withstanding anything contained in any other law for the time being in force, be registered in accordance with this Act and the rules made there under.
(2) No person or local authority shall establish or as the case may be, run or maintain an educational institution requiring registration under this section, unless such institution is so registered.
The ground realities are entirely different. Here is how it pans out in real life :
1.You don’t need official clearances
Anyone with a premise and financial resources can start a Play school in Bangalore city. ANYONE. It is beyond the purview of the Karnataka Shops & Commercial Establishments Act (1961) and though within the limits of the Karnataka Education Act, is deliberately ignored. One can set their own academics fee structure, which means sky is the limit, and also set the remuneration standards for the instructors / teachers.There is no tax levied on the institution from any body, and the overheads are all the expenses the “Play School as a business” encounters in its day-to-day running.
2.You don’t need affiliations
A mention of the Montessori system of education is the magic wand that opens up the floodgates of revenue for the management and the stamp of “reliability” for the parent, but sadly, the ground reality for the latter is way different.Though the state Department of Education has checks and balances in place to whet out and affiliate a school – there a tens of thousands of play schools and day care centres that spring up with no requirement for any licence/back ground check.
3.You don’t need a set of qualifications
No one checks for the qualifications of the Play school your child spends time for a reasonable part of the day, sadly, not even the parents, in most cases. From the teachers to the helpers / assistants who actually are duty bound to take care of your child, have no minimum qualification strictures binding them. The friendly “didi” who is your child’s best friend from Play school, and who helps change diapers for her doesn’t go through any state-regulated academic/skill-set filters to be a part of the Play school’s team. Think about it.
In short, it means this : That Play school that your 3 –year old and the love of your life spends a good part of the day in Bangalore city does not come under the ambit of any child education controls set by the state in real life. The friendly assistant who takes care of your child need not have any basic educational qualifications nor any background checks, while being employed to spend a good part of your child, taking care, tending to him/her and even assisting them with their bodily functions. He/she could be a Pedophile or a closeted one, who would use this as an easy mechanism to befriend innocent children.You will never know. The same goes for the teachers too.
It is high time the state education department sits up and take notice of this glaring lacunae in the state education system, starting with control, affiliation and qualifications. If left unchecked, we would have none but ourselves to blame for another unfortunate event, we feel, is just around the corner.