The clang of the gates opening for exit of the junior school children at the stroke of one thirty for five days a week is always an invitation to chaos and overcrowding of the small three feet wide gate. This Vidyalaya was no different. Though the parents were educated the jostling at the gate was no different. The school authorities were very selective in admission. Hence selection was not only of students but also of families.
The school had enlisted services of a social psychiatrist. Teachers attempted to correct indisciplined students and if they saw no improvement, the psychiatrist’s services were called in. The Principal invited parents to the school to understand the cause of the indiscipline in their ward. They were given a month’s time for corrective behaviour. A threat of expulsion is not uttered but the vague words leave no doubt of the import of their words in the minds of parents. In six decades, no child was expelled from the school.
These measures were to maintain discipline among students within the school premises. Even though every day, there was display of indiscipline by nearly hundred parents, or other escorts who were sent to pick up a child. As soon as the gates opened, there was a mad rush of mothers and drivers, of fathers and maids all pushing each other. Each one clamoured to have his or her child first. The rush would be so chaotic and unpleasant. The children too eager to see their parents would not move away to make way for another child.
The educated parents did not realise that their indiscipline was not only causing problems but the daily five hours of effort of teachers and the school to teach child social and personal behaviour and disciplined responses were collapsing in seconds on seeing the chaos the moment the gate opened.
A grandfather who used to come to pick up his granddaughter and was associated indirectly with the school management for forty years decided to end this chaotic run. He insisted on formation of queue outside the gate on first come first basis without exception. It was an innovation but without circular from the school authorities. A few mothers initially refused to comply with it. But soon they discovered that if they were not in queue, helpers did not call for their children. Gradually everyone started to fall in line to discover to their surprise that they got their child easily and quickly and the queue helped the two women helpers to call the child as soon as they identified the escort.
Some mothers complained to the principal that an old man was compelling them to stand in line to get their child. She expressed her inability to intervene as the old man was from the managing committee of the Education Society that controlled the school.
A senior Security man from the Rashtrapati Bhavan insisted that he be handed over his grandchild immediately. He was told by the old man that he may be the top adviser to the President but here at this gate he was merely a grandfather of a school student. If exception was made in his case, it would lead to a bad impact on other children. He kept on arguing but the old man refused to budge. Next day, the security person came back with profuse apologies. He said that on introspection he could see from the security perspective that his insistence on queueing up was the best. From the next day onwards, he very politely took his place in the queue.
Most mothers and fathers who could come to pick up their child soon learnt that discipline outside the exit gate was needed.A few parents were enlisted to work as volunteers to guide others in the formation of lines according to the classes of their wards. But more difficult was controlling the drivers, ayahs and other servants. The principal finally ordered to have barricades for parents to form a line.
As the gate opened onto the road that led to the residences of Members of Parliament, a rope on the road was used as the main barricade. It was noticed that a few fathers and mothers stood at the rope to beckon their child to rush instead of taking the route chalked out for all students and their escorts.
The old man told These people to stand at the Lajpat Nagar Metro station and watch how many people took the crossing through the main road regardless of heavy traffic. There was an over bridge leading from the station to the opposite bylane of Defence Colony. Fifty yards away was a subway for road crossing. Both were safe and legal crossings, yet many preferred to risk their lives by crossing over the road through heavy traffic. In 2017, 253 lives were lost in irregular road crossing as high speed vehicles knocked into them. the number of casualties on road crossing between the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Safdarjang Hospital was even higher. The old man told the parents, that If they think it was alright for their child to take such shortcuts in life and risk not only their lives but also the lives of others, they were welcome to do so. But then they would need to seek admission for their child in another school. ‘We do not encourage parental indiscipline here,’ he said. ‘You may or may not discipline life of your child but there are other eggs in our basket. We would not like them to rot’ he continued. The parent did not argue any further. Next day onwards he fell in line and insisted that others also follow the set route.
One of the volunteer mothers, who was witness to all this asked the old man, “Uncle you must be happy now that virtually everyone is following the route, Right?” With tears in his eyes he said, NO my child. It makes me sad that even for educated people, we have had to raise barricades so that they follow discipline. I think it is shameful.’
That is something for all to think over…...