The death of two schoolboys while rowing in the Rabindra Sarobar on Saturday afternoon has made several schools review their systems and ensure stricter norms before allowing children to participate in sports and other activities that involve risks.
The two boys who drowned in the Dhakuria lake in the middle of a Nor’wester — Pushan Sadhukhan and Souradeep Chatterjee — were students of South Point High School. While Pushan was in Class IX, Souradeep was in Class X.
The school on Monday said that henceforth they would prefer to do a risk assessment for hazardous activities “organised by outside agencies” before allowing their students to participate in them.
Students now take part in an array of outdoor activities such as rowing, rock climbing and trekking, which are held outside the campus.
Schools are planning to test the physical stamina of the students keen to take part in such outdoor activities and encourage parents to accompany their children.
The institutions have also decided to check swimming certificates of the students and rescue preparedness at the sites where activities like rowing and rock climbing take place.
“When an outside agency is involved, it is often presumed that safety mechanisms are in place, but it may not be so,” said the head of a south Kolkata school.
“At South Point, we have a system of undertaking hazard identification and risk assessment before organising any event by the school and thereafter taking measures for mitigating risks. Going forward, we would prefer to do this analysis for hazardous activities conducted by outside agencies where our students participate to ensure the organisers have considered all risks. Accidents might still take place but at least the organisers should be better prepared for any accident,” said trustee Krishna Damani.
He said they would allow students to participate in any hazardous activity outside school only when they were satisfied with the safety norms followed at the site.
A number of schools readily allow students to participate in such events without basic checks and bask in the glory of the children’s success.
Students in several schools are into rowing, representing their institutions in inter-school championships. But many such students practise by themselves and their schools’ role is limited to authorising them, with the consent of the parents, to represent the institutions in tournaments.
But that is not enough, a number of heads said, highlighting the need to adopt stricter norms.
“We would not allow students to participate in any tournament unless we are satisfied with the rescue protocol the organisers have drawn up,” said Terence Ireland, principal of St James’ School.
“For any championship or even practice session, there should be lifeguards on duty.”
Teachers said the two years of the pandemic have impacted the physical stamina of students in general and many of them have been out of practice.
The BSS School sends students on mountain trekking and has decided to engage more parents to accompany the young ones.
“Not just teachers, we will also engage parents who are into trekking. We will also expect students to provide fitness certificates from doctors so we are certain they will not suffer from any breathing problems,” said principal Sunita Sen.
Sushila Birla Girls' School will check the swimming skills of students and their certificates and Modern High School for Girls will ascertain how much time a student has spent in water before allowing her to row.
“An incident like this (the one on Saturday that claimed the lives of two students) makes it even more important to review the systems and we will have an internal review,” said Damayanti Mukherjee, principal of Modern High School for Girls.
The teachers, however, are unanimous that the risks should not come in the way of promoting outdoor sports. “There are risks involved in every sport. Because of that we cannot ask students not to participate in them,” said Francis Jimmy Keepuram, principal of St Lawrence High School.