Delhi schools were in focus recently because the Government had decided to put the classes under scanner and give access to parents. Parents would now have an option to switch on live feed for fifteen minutes every day and see what their kid is doing in the class. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal further explained this initiative “This is true democracy…minute by minute, we will tell you whether your children are studying or not”. He further claimed this step would make the system transparent & accountable and would ensure safety of kids.
There have been several unfortunate incidents in few schools that have put in question the safety of kids in school. All stakeholders must worry about such incidents and procedures be made so that these incidents do not repeat. But at the same time it is important to ask can these incidents be made a reason to constantly put the sanctity of class under surveillance.
The foundation of a teacher-student relationship lies on trust. As a Teach For India fellow one of the authors taught class four students in Seelampur area of Delhi. The day he joined students were undergoing their assessments. They were made to sit separately which meant seating them in the corridors on the floor so that they do not cheat! This obviously could not stop them from asking each other. What was most striking was the lack of trust school authorities showed in these eight-nine year old children. After a small conversation they were made to sit together in the class for the next assessment. Not one kid peeped into the other copy. It was a small step but strengthened the relationship of students with the teacher. Building trust is lesson 101 for any teacher.
Leave apart the constant fear under which students will remain in their class with the awareness that their parents are a remote control away analyzing their activities, the teacher too will be extremely vulnerable with them being monitored constantly. This decision will grossly hamper the teacher-student trust and their relationship.
While it cannot be denied that parents are an important stakeholder of the school and have an active voice via the School Management Committee’s in school management, but it should also be understood that running the school effectively and safely is the duty of the School Leader. Delhi government on its part has taken certain initiatives where it is empowering the School principals but how does it imagine a school leader functioning with continuous interference of the parents?
Moreover this decision is blatantly violative of the constitutional guarantees which are espoused by the Indian Legal system. As recently as last year, the Supreme Court of India has declared that there exists a Fundamental Right to Privacy under the Indian Constitution, and the executive should guarantee its enforcement.
Being declared a fundamental right, connotes important ramifications. This means that now there can’t be any law which can violate the right. Therefore, this policy of Delhi Government is rendered unconstitutional by the operation of this right.
United Kingdom is claimed to be the ‘father’ of CCTV implementation whereby since the 1980s the UK government installed cameras at a rate of 500 per week (Goold 2004). The Association of Teachers and Lecturers of the United Kingdom had in a position statement on 22 October, 2013 stated, ‘It is unrealistic to expect there to be no use of surveillance CCTV in school grounds and buildings. Equally, it is plainly unacceptable to allow free rein of the use of CCTV in schools, especially in sensitive areas such as classrooms, changing rooms and toilets. The balance on school premises is clearly somewhere between these two extremes. ATL has major reservations about the streaming of images from surveillance CCTV to outside agencies, such as local authorities and other parties like parents, for whatever purposes, particularly from within classrooms and other teaching areas. (https://www.atl.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/policy-posts/use-cctv-surveillance-schools)'.
The question that should be asked to Arvind Kejriwal government is what formed the basis of implementing this farmaan? how many studies were done and their impact on quality of education? Also how is his government planning to prevent the usage of this facility from voyeurs!
Privacy as a legal principle is not only about what happens within the four walls of a household, but also within the school. In schools its way more important because most children in schools are minors and hence the state’s responsibility to protect their civil rights is even more not less.
It’s high time India starts taking privacy and its concomitant rights seriously in order to bring our legal system at par with developed regimes like the European Union and the United States, where individual freedom is actually guaranteed in private spaces too in addition to public space. A monitored regime while a child is at a developing stage, poses serious challenges to the healthy development of a child.
(Co-authored by Aaditya Tiwari and Raghav Pandey.)