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In tragedy, a lesson learnt for schools

The tragedy of a family that lost a child in a freak accident in school has prompted many Calcutta institutions to upgrade their medical facilities and train staff to handle emergencies better.

Delhi Public School New Town, where Class VI student Aryan Dutta choked on chicken nuggets while eating a sandwich in a hurry during the afternoon break, has increased surveillance on each floor and decided to provide advanced training to the two resident nurses. The school is also planning to get a doctor on board.

“We are trying to reinforce the importance of things that are usually taken for granted,” said Sonali Sen, the principal of DPS New Town.

St. James’ School and Mahadevi Birla World Academy have grabbed an offer from the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences to train their staff in basic life-skills.

Most of the reputable schools in town already have an emergency management system. It’s just that Aryan’s death has shaken them into revisiting the practices that might have become rusty without regular drills.

“Our teachers have done a course in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation but we feel it needs to be continuously upgraded. And I still wouldn’t say that it is sufficient,” said Terence Ireland, the principal of St. James’ School.

The day after the incident at DPS New Town, Mahadevi Birla gathered its staff for a demonstration in emergency care by the school’s nurses. “We need to empower our teachers and floor attendants. It is critical to find help when you need it in every corner of a sprawling campus,” principal Anjana Saha said.

At Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, a doctor has been conducting a session each for students from Class VI onwards on how to tackle a medical emergency. Welland Gouldsmith has increased the number of teachers patrolling the campus during the break.

Don Bosco Park Circus has six to eight teachers keeping an eye on students during the break. Apeejay Park Street plans to soon have a full-time nurse.

Aryan’s father Palak Dutta, an assistant vice-president with Axis Bank, would be glad schools have heeded his appeal to train students in tackling emergencies. “There should be a monthly drill for students on what to do if someone chokes, gets electrocuted or hurts himself. It will help if anything untoward happens and, perhaps, save lives,” he had told Metro.

Doctors recommend basic medical aids such as a stethoscope, thermometer, blood pressure monitor, oxygen cylinder, tongue depressor, sterile dressing equipment and stretchers for every school infirmary. “It might not be possible to have a doctor in the school but the nurse on duty should be properly trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. More important, the training should be upgraded every year. There should always be a car ready to take a child to the nearest well equipped hospital,” general physician Rajeev Seal said.

The La Martiniere schools have a doctor and a trained nurse each. “In the event of an emergency, the doctor attends to the child and we have a tie-up with Belle Vue Clinic across the road so that he or she can be taken there immediately,” said Supriyo Dhar, the secretary of the La Martiniere schools.

For students, training in emergencies begins with teaching — and frequently reminding — them what not to do. The small but significant things are not to talk or run with food in the mouth, not to swallow without chewing properly and avoid sprinting down the stairs.

“Schools cannot be equipped like hospitals because that is not feasible. But what they must do is plan for an emergency. Each time something like this (the DPS tragedy) happens, it’s a wake-up call,” said Devi Kar, the director of Modern High.

Aryan couldn’t be saved, but he might have just saved many lives.