Bid to fudge attendance claimed more lives?

P. Kerim Friedman kerim.list at
Mon Jul 19 12:43:42 UTC 2004

It seems that language policies intended to boost attendance in Tamil
medium classes were partially responsible for the number of deaths in a
recent school fire in Southern India. (Sorry, no URL for this article,
it was e-mailed to me.) - kerim

The Hindu July 19, 2004

Bid to fudge attendance claimed more lives?

By Ramya Kannan

KUMBAKONAM, JULY 18. Two whole days after a fire killed 90 children in
a school here, new evidence suggests that the casualties were high
because school authorities anticipating an inspection by the school
inspector, sent children upstairs to fudge the class strength in the
Tamil-medium section.

The fudging of attendance registers became necessary as the
grants-in-aid to aided schools is tied to the number of students in the
Tamil medium section.

Parents and surviving students today said in Sri Krishna School, it was
customary to send students from the English-medium section (located on
the ground floor) to the Tamil section on the first floor (which caught
fire) during official inspection. ``They were sent with instructions to
answer names in the Tamil register and warned not to give their real
names,’’ said Chandrasekhar, father of Amirtha Vinci, a sandard IV
student. That is how Jennifer became Mahalaskhmi and Vishnu answered
for Sankaran. ``The teacher told us, `The AEO is coming. Don’t tell him
your real name even if he asks you questions.’ We do this regularly,’’
Jennifer, a primary school student, said matter-of-factly.

The number of children from the standard IV English medium class could
be between four and seven. The children are not very clear about how
many went up, but as Vishnu said, ``From all classes in the English
medium, children are being sent up.’’

Parimala, an aunt of R. Maran who was among the first to run out of the
burning building, said the boy was asked to remove his belt and badge
before he was sent upstairs with another name. ``The English section
children wear belts and badges, but the Tamil ones don’t. That is why
they asked the kids to remove the belts and badges before they went up
to make the duplication seem authentic.’’

``At least two of my daughter’s classmates who were sent up died in the
fire,’’ Mr.Chandrasekhar said. Asked if an inspection was scheduled in
the school during the day and if duplication was being practised, the
District Collector, J. Radhakrishnan, said ``we are not sure how much
of it is true. There is a lot of speculation going on and emotions are
running high. The administration is collecting all the information and
will verify all claims as soon as possible.’’

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