|Year : 2014 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 6-7
Safety and health concerns of school going children in India
Adhisivam Bethou, Chandrasekaran Venkatesh
Department of Pediatrics, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, India
|Date of Web Publication||13-Jun-2014|
Dr. Adhisivam Bethou
Department of Pediatrics, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry - 605 006
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Bethou A, Venkatesh C. Safety and health concerns of school going children in India. Int J Adv Med Health Res 2014;1:6-7
| Introduction|| |
As the world's population clock keeps ticking beyond the landmark of seven billion, it is not unusual to find several associated problems looming large in countries like India, which have been contributing significantly to the population explosion. One such worrying issue is the plight of school going children. This area requires close monitoring, research, policy making, and sustainable solutions. To promote safe and effective schooling, a child-friendly school initiative has been proposed by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics in 2005, with 'ten commandments' for schools.  These commandments include - no physical punishment, no excess baggage, safe and proper transportation to school, provision of hygienic drinking water, provision of clean kitchen/clean place for eating, having a minimum of four games periods in one week, properly ventilated and illuminated classrooms, facility for a periodic health checkup, facility for first aid and emergency, and adequate number of toilets. These ten commandments are seen as the basic requirements for any school. With a right to free and compulsory education coming into effect from April 1, 2010, these commandments seem all the more appropriate, to ensure that healthy and holistic education takes place with adequate safeguard on the rights of the child. Unfortunately, we do come across a lot of incidents that violate the above principles, due to failure of compliance and the compromising attitude of the school authorities on the above issues.
| Corporal Punishment|| |
Although corporal punishment has been banned in all schools in India, incidents of teachers "taking it out" on their students are increasingly being reported. According to UNICEF State of the World Children's report, 60% of the world's children (including India) aged 2-14 years have experienced violent punishment.  Corporal punishment leads to direct and indirect physical and mental harm, increased aggression, antisocial behavior, and impaired cognition in these children.
| Safe Transportation|| |
It is a common sight to see autorickshaws, vans, and buses crammed full with school children of different age groups plying fast toward schools in the morning hours. The increasing road traffic accidents involving these school children raises several issues, including the state of roads, driving skills, license of the drivers, and the condition of the vehicles. School children wading across water bodies and crossing precarious bridges and railway tracks are not uncommon. Most of the children in rural schools walk barefoot daily, which is a risk for hookworm infestation and trauma. 
| Excess Baggage|| |
Today, as we are moving toward paperless offices, a school kid in a typical urban private school is forced to carry a heavy backload daily, in the name of a schoolbag, which may lead to low backache and spinal deformities. Theoretically spinal angulation can take place due to long-term back-pack weight, and ossification of the angulated spine during late adolescence and early adulthood might result in deformities and mechanical problems. In one study, a school bag weight of more than 15% of total body weight was associated with significant changes in postural angles. 
| Infrastructure and First Aid|| |
The infrastructure of many schools, in both the public and private sectors, is pathetic. Many lack clean toilets, potable water, and playgrounds. The country will never forget the tragic event of Kumbakonam, Tamilnadu, in 2004, when at least 90 students of the primary section of an English Medium School were burnt to death in their classroom as the thatched roof caught fire due to a gas explosion from a nearby kitchen.  Narrow entrances, corridors, and staircases, and absence of emergency exits often contribute to an increased number of casualties during such emergencies.
| Food Hygiene|| |
The midday meal scheme for school children is popular in several states, including Tamilnadu, and is very crucial for improving school attendance and literacy rates. However, school children being hospitalized in groups for food poisoning does happen every now and then, with the latest event happening last year in Bihar, where 23 children lost their lives, due to suspected pesticide contamination in their midday meals.  These facts highlight the need for more stringent measures for improving cleanliness of school kitchens and safety of meals served.
| Games and Extracurricular Activities|| |
Apart from physical problems, there are a whole lot of psychosocial issues related to the school environment. A continuous busy schedule of regular classes, tuitions, and tests from dawn to dusk, with no play or relaxation in between, often result in an exhausted child with stress headache.
| Health Status|| |
In most government schools, an annual health examination of students does not take place on a routine basis each year and most often these children are seen in regional health camps organized by political parties. On the other hand, some schools, especially in the private sector, are so strict regarding school attendance that even febrile children are forced to attend classes. This is not only detrimental to the concerned individual, but can also facilitate easy spread of infectious diseases, including exanthematous illness, among school children.
| The Solution|| |
Research on school safety and child rights remains a largely neglected area and affects the planning and intervention on child safety at school. A national survey on the safety of school children should be undertaken on a priority basis, with inputs from parents, children, school teachers, education officials, and other stake holders. A machinery to oversee the smooth running of the Right to Education Act should also periodically check to see whether the school safety measures are in place so that the Child Friendly School Initiative Program (CFSI) under the IAP Action Plan 2011, becomes a reality rather than a dream.  Nurturing a safe and healthy school cohort is certainly the best investment to build a strong nation.
| References|| |
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|2.||Ending Legalised Violence Against Children: Global Report 2013. Available from: http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/pdfs/reports/GlobalReport2013.pdf. [Last accessed on 2014 Apr 15]. |
|3.||Sampathkumar V, Rajaratnam A. Prevalence of anaemia and hookworm infestation among adolescent girls in one rural block of Tamil Nadu. Indian J Matern Child Health 1997; 8:73-5. |
|4.||Ramprasad M, Alias J, Raghuveer AK. Effect of backpack weight on postural angles in preadolescent children. Indian Pediatr 2010;47:575-80. |
|5.||2004 Kumbakonam School Fire. Available from: http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004KumbakonamSchoolFire. [Last accessed on 2011 Nov 21]. |
|6.||Midday Meal Tragedy Jolts Bihar. Available from: http://www.freepressjournal.in/midday-meal-tragedy-jolts-bihar/. [Last accessed on 2014 Apr 15]. |
|7.||Sukumaran TU. Child friendly school initiative program (CFSI) under IAP action plan 2011. Indian Pediatr 2011;48:179-80. |