Girl’s death in Bathery School – Protests mount – Principal and Headmaster suspended
The Principal AK Karunakaran and Headmaster KK Mohanan of the Government Sarvajana Higher Secondary School, Sulthan Bathery, where a 10-year-old student, Shehala Sherin, was bitten to death by a snake that slithered out in the classroom on Wednesday, have been suspended today.
Earlier, Shijil, a teacher at the school and Dr Jissa Mary Roy, casualty medical officer at Sulthan Bathery Government Taluk Hospital were also suspended after a preliminary inquiry found them guilty of delaying treatment to the child.
It was found that the girl could not get anti-venom shot as well as other medicines despite adequate stock at the hospital.
A wave of outrage and protests by various students’ organisations swept through the Wayanad town on Friday, affecting the functioning of the Wayanad Collectorate.
S. Sherin, a Class-V student, was on Wednesday bitten by a snake on the floor of her classroom. She later died in a government hospital.
The decision to suspend the Principal and the Headmaster was taken by the Wayanad district education authorities who also decided to dissolve the Parents Teacher Association of the school.
Student organisations attached to various political parties took turns to stage protests at the Wayanad Collectorate on Friday. The protest by the SFI, the student wing of the CPI-M, and the KSU (Congress) turned violent and the police had to use force to drive them away.
The protesters criticized the callous attitude of the school authorities and the hospital staff in providing immediate medical relief to the school girl.
State Education Minister C. Raveendranath, who will be reaching the school on Saturday and meeting the parents of the deceased girl may face more protests as the student organisations have warned to intensify their agitation.
The Education Department on Friday issued a circular to all schools in the state to immediately call a PTA meeting and see that steps are urgently taken to clean up the school premises. The authorities have been told to provide first-aid training to all teachers.
Rahul Gandhi writes to Chief Minister
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Thursday wrote to Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on the death of a school girl bitten by a snake inside her classroom, saying the school’s “crumbling infrastructure” needed urgent attention of the state government.
“One of the oldest high schools in Sulthan Bathery, Sarvajana Higher Secondary School’s crumbling infrastructure requires the urgent attention of the state government. The absence of a conducive learning environment demoralises students and parents alike,” Gandhi, Congress MP from Wayanad, said in the letter.
He said since Kerala has been a pioneer in establishing quality public schools, the state government and the General Education Department should conduct an infrastructure audit of public schools in the Wayanad parliamentary constituency.
“I also urge the government to formulate a time-bound action plan for infrastructure upgradation of Sarvajana HSS, and other public schools in Wayanad.
“I will also be pleased to provide the requisite support for the upgradation of this school under MPLADS,” Gandhi said.
The Congress leader also requested the state government to provide compensation to the family of the victim.
“I hope that the state government takes the necessary measures to ensure that no parent has to bear the pain of such a preventable tragedy again,” he said.
The incident occurred on Wednesday at the Government Sarvajana High School, Sulthan Bathery when 10-year old S. Sherin, a Class 5 student, was sitting in the classroom.
Classmates blamed school authorities for negligence . According to her angry classmates, the incident occurred at 3.10 p.m. and no action was taken by the school authorities till 3.50 p.m.
Sherin was taken to a nearby hospital only after her father came with an auto, though there were several cars parked already within the school
The school headmaster, however, said that by around 4.09 p.m, the girl was brought to the local hospital and by around 4.50 p.m., she started vomiting and then the doctors said she has to be taken to the Kozhikode Medical College hospital (about 2.30 hours travel time).
“Enroute, she felt uneasy and was taken to the Vythiri Taluk hospital, where doctors advised us to take her to another hospital nearby but she died on the way,” said the headmaster.
Her classmates have blamed the school authorities for the delay in taking Sherin to the hospital.Much precious time was lost after the school authorities dilly-dallied about what to do.
But, it was much later that the hospital authorities could diagnose that it was a snake bite, even though the girl’s foot spotted marks and her leg developed a discolouration.
Two inquiries ordered
Soon after news of Shehla’s death spread, parents and residents of the area protested at the school, and barged into the staff room in search of Shijil, the teacher who allegedly refused to let Shehla go to the hospital. Though the staff room was locked, some managed to break open the door with a stone. Shijil has since been suspended by the Deputy Director of Education, Kerala Education Department.
“Two parallel inquiries have been started by Deputy Director Education and DMO,” Wayanad District Collector Adeela Abdulla said. “Students have made serious allegations so we cannot comment more on it without a proper inquiry. Local residents have blocked the Deputy Director from entering the school as a protest, so as of now we haven’t been able to finish our inquiry. We need a couple of hours more to get the facts about these allegations.”
“We want justice for Shehala. Stern action should be taken against the Parents Teachers Association (PTA), the teachers who refused to rush the student to hospital and the doctors who refused to treat her,” a student said.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the incident was unfortunate and assured strong action against those responsible for the lapse in saving the child’s life.
Strong action will be taken against those responsible for any lapses in their duty, Vijayan added.
Separate cases have also been registered by Kerala Human Rights Commission and Child Rights Protection Commission.
A boy student, with a plastic snake wrapped around his neck, said there is not even a first aid box in the school where there are snakes slithering everywhere on the playground and in classrooms.
There are snake pits in many places in the school compound, he said.
Basic facilities like clean toilets are not available at the vocational higher secondary school, some others said.
Meanwhile, Wayanad District Sessions Judge A Harris, who is also the chairman of Legal services authority, visited the school this morning and saw the sorry state of the school and its premises and said it was unfortunate.
“We are taking the situation seriously,” he told.
District Child Welfare Committee (CWC) President K Aravindakshan said based on newspaper reports on the death of the student, CWC had on their own registered a case.
A detailed report has been sought from the Deputy Director of the Education department and District Medical Officer on the lapses on the part of school and hospitals, where the child was taken.