Schools instructed to produce four certificates of approval/renewal during inspections

The devastating fire tragedy in Krishna Primary School at Kumbakonam in July 2004 has virtually brought the entire school network in the State under safety scanner. Officials maintain that a series of measures have since been taken to ensure the safety of children.

The Department of School Education has been strict in renewing the approvals of schools that have failed to comply with the mandatory safety norms. Implementation of Justice Sampath Commission recommendations is being monitored.

K. Devarajan, Director of School Education, told The Hindu on Tuesday that safety of students was top on the agenda and no school was being spared if it violated the prescribed norms. Renewal was not done in a hurry.

“Every school has to produce four certificates for approval/renewal. They are fire safety certificate from the Fire Department; building stability certificate from a chartered engineer; building plan approval certificate from thasildar and sanitary certificate issued by sanitary inspector. Our department officials are strict during inspections,” he said.

The level of public awareness too has gone up. For instance, the Madurai Collector, Anshul Mishra, recently received a complaint on Facebook that students of a private middle school on North Masi Street in Madurai were in unsafe condition as the school management was making them sit in buildings that were not meant for classes.

According to Madurai District Fire Officer K. Karuppiah, a report was submitted to the Collector immediately after inspection and the school authorities were told not to use buildings that were constructed for purposes other than for school classes.

Mr. Devarajan said totally 8,000 schools in the State, including high and higher secondary schools, were instructed not to keep combustible/ inflammatory materials on their campus and every school had to conduct fire drills periodically with the help of Fire and Rescue Services Department.

“The Chief Educational Officers and District Educational Officers are following up the implementation process. Private schools must adhere to safety measures for getting their licence renewed,” he said and added that as for government schools, the Public Works Department would take care.

Adequate entry and exit points for use in an emergency, availability of fire extinguishers in working condition and removal of thatched sheds were among the steps taken to ensure safety of children. Elementary education officials are on constant vigil to ensure better conditions in nursery/primary schools.

D. C. Elangovan, State secretary, Federation of Association of Private Schools in Tamil Nadu, said safety of students must be seen from a holistic view and not just from the point of fire tragedy or buildings alone.