At the school in Kundal village in Fazilka. (Express photo by Gurmeet Singh)
Only eleven of 20 students of Class VII came to Government Middle School (for girls) in Kundal, Fazilka, Monday. Strength in Classes VI and VIII has also reduced and only 27 of the total 51 students were present Monday. This is the fallout of an incident on October 31, when six girl students alleged that they were forced to strip by two teachers to check who had disposed of a sanitary napkin in a school toilet, leading to blockage.
A six-member committee headed by Abohar Sub-divisional Magistrate (SDM) Poonam Singh started an inquiry Monday. A student said, “There is no bin in the bathrooms, so what should we do? At times, we don’t even use toilet for the whole day.” Another student, who started crying while narrating the ordeal, said, “We are 20 girls of Class VII. All of us were called one by one in Class VIII, along with some Class VI girls. Four class VIII girls were present and we were told to strip one by one. I just can’t forget it.”
Meanwhile, Kuldeep Kaur and Jyoti Chugh, the two teachers who were allegedly involved in the incident, appeared before the inquiry committee, after which the SDM Poonam and the committee members visited the school and recorded statements of students and
“After compiling the report, the education department will determine the disciplinary action needed,” said Poonam Singh. The other members of inquiry committee are DEO Kulwant Singh, Bindu Arora, principal, government senior secondary school Abohar, SHO Sadar, child psychologist Dr Shelly and Geeta Rani, child development programme officer (CDPO).
Construction work is on at the school as two new classrooms are being built. There are three toilets in the school, one of which one is damaged, another blocked and only one is used by students. “Blockage of toilets is a common problem. I clear blockages, mostly sanitary napkins, every two months. Teachers contribute money to get it cleared. I myself have requested students many times to observe hygiene,” said Ranjit Kaur, a daily wager who is a sweeper at the school.
When asked about safe disposal of garbage including sanitary pads, the teachers said, “Pits are dug near the toilets for disposing of garbage. Four pits have been closed so far as they were full.” However, there was no fresh pit dug on the school premises, nor any dustbins which raised questions over the objection raised by teachers about sanitary pads in toilets.
“Safe disposal is a must, but the manner the girls were checked, was not justified,” said grandmother of a Class VII student who has not been going to school since October 31.
“The girls never create problems at home, so why would they do so in school? Teachers need to educate them about correct practices rather than humiliating them. When we went to the school the next day, we were turned away. Jyoti [Chugh] had gone on leave while Kuldeep Kaur did not listen to us. So we had no choice but to take up the matter with higher authorities. We want their suspension” said another woman whose three grand-daughters were allegedly among those asked to strip.