At a time when women across the country are fighting for better access to toilets in public and private spaces alike, a private school in Hyderabad has threatened to issue a transfer certificate to a girl student who raised a request for cleaner toilets in the school.
The complainant, a class IX student of Dilsukhnagar Public School, approached the school management a couple of days ago, pointing out the unhygienic conditions in the girls’ toilet and requested for better upkeep of toilets in the school. After her complaint went unheard, her father approached the school management, requesting them to look into the matter.
“After my daughter began regularly complaining about the unhygienic conditions of the toilets in the school, I decided to talk to the school authorities and went to the school on Wednesday to pay the school fees. I merely told them that they need to keep the toilets clean because it was easy for children to catch infections. But instead, the authorities took offence and started abusing me badly. They escalated the matter and even told me that if my ward found it difficult to study in such an environment, I could pull my daughter out of the school and admit her somewhere else,” Phani Kumar, the student’s father, told TNM.
“I was appalled. I wasn’t asking them to build a new toilet. It’s the right of every student to ask for a clean environment where he or she is studying. Especially girls, for whom access to clean washrooms is very important. In a matter that could have been settled between the management and the student, the authorities instead chose to abuse and threaten me. After all, we pay for their service and we have every right to ask,” Kumar said.
Soon after the incident, Kumar filed a complaint with the Hyderabad Schools Parent Association (HSPA). “It’s the responsibility of the state education department to conduct regular checks and rap schools that do not provide even basic facilities to the students. If the DEO doesn’t pay heed, I am planning to file a petition at the High Court,” Phani Kumar said.
Talking to TNM, Venkat, one of the members of the HSPA, said that such attitude of schools is common and is the reason most parents refrain from lodging complaints.
“We have received a lot of similar complaints in the past too. Schools are known for their brazen attitude in addition to the huge fees they extort from students every year. The matter will be forwarded to the DEO and further action will be taken after he takes cognisance of the matter,” Venkat said.
Responding to the incident, authorities of Dilsukhnagar Public School told TNM that the scuffle ensued after a staff member, who wasn’t authorised to speak on the issue, behaved rudely with the parent.
“The student’s parent had come to the school to pay fees and before leaving he asked one of our staff members in the school office about the maintenance of the washrooms. The staff member, who wasn’t authorised to talk to parents on the issue, said that the request raised by the parent was not practical and behaved in a way that was inappropriate,” Kalyani, the headmistress of the school, said.
Asked if access to cleaner washrooms was an impractical request, the headmistress said that the parent wanted the washroom to be cleaned every time after it was used, which was not possible claiming the number of housekeeping staff in the school is low.
The school authorities said they are yet to issue an apology to Phani Kumar after the alleged misbehaviour by the school staff.