Thursday, September 25, 2008

A parent's nightmare

I opened my inbox today to see the name of a dear friend in the mail. 'This happened to my brother' the mail said, and for a second I wondered how she too had fallen prey to the mass-guilt-inducing mails that spam our lives. Not like her.

Then I read the mail, and sat at my desk, shocked. It wasn't a forward from an obscure part of the continent that promised to send 60p to an obscure couple in the Philippines. This was her little cousin brother, all of six years, who almost did not make it home because of his school's policies.

This six-year-old child, and I cannot repeat it enough, six-year-old, was dropped by his school bus, on the wrong stop - a good kilometre away from his usual drop. The child walked home by himself, even as his frantic parents got no answers from the teachers/staff on board the bus. It was raining, and today's times are filled with people who constitute every mother's worst nightmare. I can only imagine how anxious, angry and vulnerable his parents must have felt, not knowing where to find the child. I shudder when I place myself in their position - and rage rises fast.

It gets worse. The school - a respectable one, considered among the better schools in our city - refuses to acknowledge that a mistake was made. Even more infuriatingly, the parents queries are not being entertained. Over the years - and I know more than a few parents who send their children to this particular school - no head counts are done in the buses, there is no way to ensure you child does not get lost.

I remember when I was kid, if there was a problem at school, parents could just walk in to the Principal's office - they'd share a cup of tea/coffee, and things would be sorted. Because back then, the 'management' cared as much about students as the parents themselves. Because back then, a school represented a window to the world, not an abandonment in the world.

This is a shocking incident - for parents, even more so. The child's father has come up with a unique way of expressing his angst, of getting through to the school's management. You can read more about it here.

This doesn't happen to all of us - but what if it did? Nino's Dad and I have so far avoided thinking about the school-buses that Nino will probably have to use to get to school. There are a few schools were using the school bus is compulsory. Who will watch over him there, if the teachers are too busy chatting and the driver doesn't give a damn? I know I'm going to loose sleep over this one.

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