Every parent wants their child to be in the best preschool. But in Ahmedabad, to do so parents have to endanger their kids’ safety.
Gujarat government is very clear that pre-schools and pre-primary schools in the State should not hold physical classes because though the worst phase may be over, Covid 19 is staring still and in the third phase of coronavirus, kids are considered to be most vulnerable. The Gujarat government is clear about this but certain schools and their owners have been found blatantly flouting these rules.
A Vibes of India investigation has revealed that these schools openly tell parents that they have “very friendly terms” with the Government and they will not be nailed for keeping their classes open. “This school is owned by a prominent industrialist’s family and we are beyond rules made for average people”, a school owner boasted to Vo!.
Running pre-primary schools and exposing children to a Covid19 situation is a dangerous proposition and this is exactly why the Gujarat government has ensured that these schools remain close. Education Minister Jitu Vaghani has even reconfirmed that no primary school can remain open and if any preschool or kindergarten is open if you find any pre-primary school functioning, call the government helpline number 100. It is an extremely serious breach of Covid protocol, especially given the threat of a deadly third wave that many experts fear could affect the children most, given that they do not have the protection of the vaccine.
The Supreme Court ruled in July that the state governments would take the call on when to reopen schools. The Gujarat State Education Board rolled out the circular to reopen schools from Grade VI to Grade VIII from September 2. Prior to that, the schools were reopened from Grade IX to Grade XII.
But the state government has maintained that pre-schools will remain virtual and in-person classes will not be held until the government announces it is safe to do so.
Vibes of India set out to check if these guidelines are being followed. Here’s what we found:
1. Toy Blocks, Makarba
The self-proclaimed number 1 preschool that is founded by Priyanka Mehta, wife of Varun Mehta who is the son of Pharma tycoon of India Sudhir Mehta of Torrent Group had been holding in-person classes on July 28 this year, Vibes of India had reported. Even now, the school is cocking a snook at the government’s ban. We saw parents dropping off their kids inside the campus and the guards hurried them along as soon as they saw our reporters. As you can see in the video below, the kids were picked up by their parents.
2. Vedant International Pre School, South Bopal
The school has nine branches in Ahmedabad – South Bopal, North Bopal, Satellite, Vastral, Ghuma, Shilaj, Sattadhar, Jivraj Park and Maninagar. Rutvi Vyas is the director of Vedant International Preschool. When we entered the preschool situated at the outskirts of the city in South Bopal, we asked about the admission process to the centre head, Manasi Doctor, and mentioned that we prefer offline classes as the child is not aware of the technology of online classes yet. She immediately said that they were functioning offline, and mentioned the timings for different classes.
3. Kidzee, Bodakdev
Kidzee, the largest preschool chain in Asia with a network of 1900-plus schools in 750-plus cities, has also royally ignored the government’s orders. Kidzee that is a brainchild of Charanjit Singh Saini and is a part of Zee Learn Ltd is known as Asia’s Number 1 preschool. When we visited the premises, we tried to call the teachers to open the door and let us in but they did not. We saw tiny shoes on the foot rack while looking for the staff. A local vendor told us that generally, women come to drop off the kids in the morning. As we were leaving, we saw a woman accompanying a child with a backpack. The lady rang the doorbell and someone from the school came out to collect the child.
4. Mother’s Pet, Stadium Road
The campus of the school established in 1977 seemed empty. Rita Mehta is the Director of the school. As we walked in further, an employee asked us to sanitise our hands and check our temperature. Then we met the administrator, Devanshi, who told us that the school was closed. When we insisted on offline classes, she said that they have a hybrid model where the student comes once a week depending on the student’s grade. Devanshi questioned the government for allowing all the other public spaces to open up. She also said that they cannot begin offline classes also because some neighbours inform the authorities.
5. Hugs ‘N’ Cuddles Kindergarten, Bodakdev
The preschool that is a venture of Mrs Bela Jaydeep has three branches – Bodakdev, Satellite, Navrangpura. While navigating our way to the Bodakdev campus, we saw a three-year-old with a backpack walking alongside her mom. As we went further, we saw a couple of kids with their parents coming out of the school. The administrator told us about their hybrid system wherein the child learns for four days virtually and has classes for two days offline. As she gave us a tour of the campus, we saw one class of babies 10 to 14-month-old with their mothers in the classroom.
6. EuroKids India, Gurukul
Euro Kids that is founded by Prajodh Rajan and Vikas Phadnis is present in three countries with more than 900 preschools in 350+ cities. When we entered the Gurukul campus with a brochure of another school in our hand. After we insisted on offline classes, executive director Donita Bhati reluctantly told us about the offline play meet. She told us that the classes are online but they have a meeting from 5 pm to 6 pm for children who want to come to school. She stressed that it was not compulsory. Another teacher showed us the campus. We were told of ongoing offline activities in the evenings.
7. Bodakdev School for Children, Bodakdev
Bodakdev School of Children comes under Udgam Consultancy which was founded by Executive Director, Manan Choksi of Bodakdev School for Children and three other schools in Ahmedabad are Udgam, Zebar and Satellite School for Children. When we first went to the school at 11 am, our temperatures were checked. When we went to the administration window, they told us that a function was in progress and asked us to come later. We managed to get inside and heard a child reciting a poem. When we went back after 1 pm, there were no children present and the three-storey school building was empty.
8. Toddler’s Den, Bodakdev
Toddler’s Den founded by Deepanshu Arora and Parita Parekh has campuses in three cities – Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Hyderabad. As we entered the modern-looking school in Ahmedabad, we saw two children coming out of the door. When we went to talk to the administration, the lady at the reception told us that we can register on their website and then they will tell us in detail. On further inquiry, she told us that a hybrid system was followed with a combination of online and offline classes. Due to a technical error, we were not able to retain the video for this particular school.
9. Lampros Kids Preschool, Thaltej
The Lampros school has nine campuses – Thaltej, Prahladnagar, Navrangpura, Bopal, Naranpura, Vijaynagar, Gota, South Bopal, Maninagar and Satellite. The school is founded by Ami Darshan. We entered the campus posing as parents asking about the admission process. A staffer at the door checked our temperatures and requested us to sanitise our hands. As we sat down in the sitting area, the lady gave us a QR scan code which took us to a digital enquiry form. When we insisted on offline classes, centre manager Sangeeta Sobti clearly told us that the school will be functioning virtually until the government guidelines allow in-person classes.
10. Thumbelina Nursery & K.G. School, Naranpura
When we went to Thumbelina, founded by Perin Lalkaka in 1974, the gate was closed from the inside. We entered and saw an empty campus. On the first floor of the building, an old man asked if we wanted to inquire about admissions. He sent us to the administrator, Firdaus Lalkaka, who opened the door to his cabin after coming downstairs. He gave us the information and very clearly said that there is only virtual learning. When we insisted on offline classes, he ruled it out firmly. He added that he cannot predict when the government will issue the ruling allowing in-person classes.
11. Anand Niketan Pre School, Ambli
The preschool at Joey’s campus is founded by Shri Kamal Mangal. As we entered the campus, the security guard told us that the admissions would begin in October. When we insisted on a meeting with an official, he took us to a small window through which we could talk with the administrative staff. One of them told us that offline classes are closed and will begin when the government allows the schools to reopen. The campus was empty, and some construction work was in progress.
12. Shanti Juniors, Naranpura
There are 375+ preschools in India. Shri Ved Prakash Chiripal, the Chairman of Chiripal Industries Ltd is the Chairman of Shanti Educational Initiatives Limited as well. When we entered the Naranpura campus, only a solitary employee was present on the premises when we reached. When asked about the mode of operation of the school, we were informed it to be online. The building seemed used for quite some time.