The Telegraph
Saturday , August 5 , 2017

Toilets locked, schoolboy run over

Suri, Aug. 4: A Class I boy in Birbhum was crushed to death by a dumper today when he stepped out of school to relieve himself, with guardians alleging the teachers kept all the three toilets locked so the children couldn't "dirty" them.

Some guardians suggested that six-year-old Rijauddin would have had to step out anyway because the toilets were girls-only, but corroborated that they were locked even to the girls, with only the teachers allowed to use them.

"All the students have to go outside to relieve themselves," Mohammed Jamiruddin, father of Rijauddin, told The Telegraph, highlighting the mismatch between the school's alleged policy and the state and central governments' rush to build toilets under the Swachh Bharat and Nirmal Bangla projects, respectively.

A group of guardians and local people - mostly farmers, day labourers and small-time traders - ransacked Banshra Primary School, damaged teachers' motorbikes and roughed up the headmaster in the afternoon.

Police rescued the headmaster, who was still at the police station late this evening. The rest of the teachers had fled at the first sign of trouble and could not be contacted for comments.

"We'll take action if any complaint of negligence is lodged," additional superintendent of police Jobi Thomas K said.

Rijauddin was run over around 12.30pm while crossing the Suri-Sanithia Road in Banshra, 30km from Santiniketan, to find a spot to relieve himself.

Sudipta Bhattacharyya, economic professor at Visva-Bharati, said the school's denial of toilet use "violated the children's rights and frustrated the purpose of the government cleanliness campaigns".

The school's alleged policy of locking its toilets appears particularly ironic given that academics have identified the lack of toilets in rural schools as a key reason for the high dropout rates, especially for girls.

Raja Ghosh, chairperson of the district primary school council, said: "Teachers can't stop students from using toilets. I will look into the matter." He claimed that every primary school in the district had toilets - separate ones for boys and girls.

The school, which is over 40 years old, is one of 2,400 state-aided primary schools in Birbhum. It has four teachers apart from the headmaster, and around 80 boy and girl pupils.

"If the school allowed the children to use the toilets, today's tragedy could have been averted," a villager, Kishan Mahara, said.

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