Ensure checks before school excursion

if you are sending your child on a school field trip or a picnic or an educational tour, be absolutely sure that the school takes all precautions to ensure the safety of the children. Do not just go by the brochures or the letters that the school sends, giving the itinerary and the cost involved.

Meet the principal, talk over every detail of the trip. Find out how many teachers are accompanying the children, who is the driver of the bus, what is his experience, what measures are put in place to deal with any untoward incident or an emergency.

You have to be extra cautious if the trip includes a visit to a lake or a waterfall or a river. Unless you are satisfied with the safety measures put in place, do not send your child on the trip.

A tragic case decided by the apex consumer court some months ago, highlights the need for such caution on the part of every parent. In this case , which dates back to 1997, the children were taken on a Desh Brahman tour, which included a visit to Sarayu river, which however was not shown in the itinerary. Nor were they told that the children would be asked to bathe in the river. This was the most dangerous thing to do, but the school's safety consciousness was so low that it allowed the children who knew no swimming to bathe without any life buoys.

And there were no lifeguards or even boatmen around. Even the four teachers who accompanied the children were incapable of rescuing the children because only two of them knew swimming.

In fact, the father alleged that the teachers were sipping tea while the children were sent to bathe. One of the children, 14-year of Nitin, must have slipped and was carried away by the currents. Even his body was not found, despite days and weeks of relentless search by his father, using divers and boats.

School teachers and administrators can be highly reckless and show total disregard for safety. The Wular lake tragedy in 2006 is another example. A busload of school children were taken to the lake, about 70 kms from Srinagar. The children all below the age of 10 were accompanied by just two teachers and when the children expressed the desire to go for a joyride on the lake, the teachers requested a sailor to take them on a Naval assault boat that had a capacity of 16. A total of 37 people, including 33 children, got on to it ó violating the first safety precaution ó boats are not to be overloaded.

The second violation was that there were no life jackets, no life buoys. Sure enough, the boat capsized while taking a sharp turn, resulting in the death of 21 childern.

So never allow schools to forget safety precautions when they take children on education trips or picnics.

Tips for parents sending their children on an outdoor trip

n Get the detailed itinerary. Find out how many teachers are accompanying the children and what the weather forecast for the period. Does the school have plans to deal with emergencies?.

n Talk to the teachers and make sure that they are fully aware of their responsibility

n Find out about the travel/transportation agency that will provide the bus and the driver

n Make sure the driver is experienced and has a good track record

n If your children are young, itís best to avoid locations that have water bodies. Even if they are older and are going to locations where there is boating, make sure that the school is aware of the danger of overloading boats and taking children without life jackets and will not take any risks. Remember, your childís life is precious and you cannot allow the school to be negligent.