Kejriwal’s Move to Install CCTV in Classrooms Raises Concerns About Impact of Surveillance 

Academics and lawyers have cautioned against harmful psychological effects on teachers.

Arvind Kejriwal. Credit: PTI/FilesArvind Kejriwal. Credit: PTI/Files

Arvind Kejriwal. Credit: PTI/Files

New Delhi: Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision to install close-circuit television (CCTV) cameras in all state government school classrooms has apparently been triggered by some recent incidents of violence against children in school premises in and around Delhi. But it has come in for sharp criticism with some academics and lawyers cautioning against creating a culture of surveillance.

On Wednesday, Kejriwal had reviewed the progress of installation of CCTV cameras and had thereafter tweeted that with this scheme “Each parent will be given access to see his child studying in class on realtime basis on his phone. This will make the whole system transparent and accountable. It will ensure safety of kids.”

The safety aspect appears to have been the deciding factor behind this exercise, with several even taking to Twitter to support the move saying it was necessitated by some recent crimes against children. Moreover, they felt it would improve discipline in schools.

Crimes against school children necessitated the move

One such incident had occurred in Ryan International School in neighbouring Gurugram in Haryana, but its proximity to Delhi had made the authorities sit up and take note. In this case, a seven-year-old student was murdered allegedly by a 16-year-old from the same school. While initially the local police had arrested a school bus conductor for the crime, CCTV footage of the premises had later led the Central Bureau of Investigation to the juvenile. The CBI claimed the teenager had killed Pradhuman in an attempt to get the school closed so that a scheduled parent-teacher meeting and an examination could be deferred.

In another shocking case, a four-year-old Dwarka girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by her classmate while the teacher was away and the class was being looked after by a maid. Talking to The Wire, the victim’s mother had claimed that she had been pressing the police – who had registered an FIR and named the boy as an accused – to proceed against the school authorities for their negligence. The CCTV footage of the class had shown that the kindergarten students were left under the supervision of the maid for nearly 18 minutes.

Recently, the police – which had accessed the complete CCTV footage of the school – added the name of the school principal to the FIR and accused the management of failing to report the matter on time.

It is for this reason that Kejriwal announced that each parent would get access of CCTV output of the classroom of his/her kid in real time. The government also said that the new system would “ensure safety of kids” and make the system transparent.

However, the move was also seen as ‘dystopian’.

Meeta Rai, who has over 40 years of experience as a school administrator, and is currently the principal of Delhi Public School, Indirapuram, said: “In my school, we have over 300 CCTV cameras but not one in a classroom. We do not want teachers to be burdened while teaching. Constant monitoring can turn them into nervous wrecks.”

She, however, said it is important to monitor and record the proceedings of the other school premises and corridors to improve the safety standards. In a classroom though, she said, installation of cameras should only be considered in such a way that the teacher is not seen at all times. “We also have a lot of young teachers working for us and do not want them to be feel any kind of pressure. If the cameras are installed strategically, from the reactions of children you can still know how a class is being conducted.”

However, there was objection also to the fact that kids would be monitored at all times.

A lawyer, identifying himself as Apar,  stated that “a real time video tracker in schools will lead to policing of children not only to prevent crimes but their moral choices and behavior. Eg. social interactions (“stay away from X kid”). It will condition children into fearful clients not full individuals.”

Project to begin within three months

At Wednesday’s meeting that was also attended by the Delhi education minister Manish Sisodia and PWD minister Satyendar Jain, taking stock of the progress of the project, the chief minister directed that the process of installation of CCTVs in schools should start within three months.

It was also stated that the education minister, secretary education and director education would have the rights to any Delhi government school classroom through the app at any point of time.

“There would be an auto complaint system to check the non-functioning of any CCTV installed in the schools. The auto system would itself lodge a complaint and it will go to the system integrator who would then rectify the camera,” the government said.

While some have lauded the move as one in the direction of improving discipline in schools and making them safer for children, many wondered if a proper assessment had been done of a likely psychological impact on teachers. As one of those who took to Twitter stated, “Where is the evidence of its effectiveness? Can students and teachers remain natural in class? It is like spying and not trusting students and teachers.”

Apar, also cautioned against creating a surveillance society.

Stressing that every child has a right to privacy, Dhruv Rathee urged the government to reconsider the move.

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