A 10-year-old girl died after being bitten by a snake inside her classroom, as the state government suspended a teacher for alleged lapse in rushing her to hospital, officials said on Thursday. The fifth standard student Shehala Sherin was taken to hospital over an hour after the incident at around 3 pm on Wednesday, students of the government vocational higher secondary school at Sulthan Bathery in Wayanad district alleged. Her parents rushed her to four hospitals where no anti-venom was administered and they were told to take the child to the Kozhikode Medical college hospital, which is about 90 km from Sulthan Bathery, officials said.
Shehala's father said she died before reaching the medical college. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the incident was unfortunate and assured strong action against those responsible for the lapse in saving the child's life.
"The teachers are supposed to educate the children on how to react in such situations. But in this case, the teachers, despite repeated requests from students failed to take the child to hospital," the chief minister said. The students have claimed that the girl was taken to the hospital after the parents reached the school, he said. "Her death was unfortunate. We stand by the family. Strong action will be taken against those responsible for any lapses in their duty," Vijayan added.
On hearing about the incident, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Wayanad, wrote to Vijayan, stating that the school's "crumbling infrastructure" needed urgent attention of the state government. It is suspected that the girl must have been bitten by the snake when her leg accidentally got stuck in a small hole in the floor of the classroom.
After a preliminary probe, a teacher, Shijil, was suspended for alleged lapse, Education minister C Raveedranath said Kerala Human Rights Commission and Child Rights Protection commission have registered separate cases. While Headmaster K K Mohanan said first aid was given to the student, her father had been informed and there were no lapses on their part, shocked and angry classmates of Shehala said they had pleaded with the teachers to rush her to the hospital as early as possible, but they refused.
"She cried in pain and said she was bitten by a snake. The teachers refused to take her to the hospital. All of them have car.They waited for her father to come to take her to the hospital," the children, some of whom were weeping, said.
"The teachers shooed us away with a stick saying the injury could be due to a nail piercing her or a minor scratch after her leg went inside the hole," they alleged. "If her father had not come, will they have not taken her to hospital?" another girl asked. Another classmate alleged that their teacher continued taking class even after the incident and said the child's father will take her to hospital.
By then her leg turned blue, she said. Television channels aired visuals of the classroom with a small hole beneath the desk where the child was seated. Shehala's father said he was not told by the school authorities that she was bitten by a snake. She was taken to four hospitals but no anti-venom was administered, he alleged and added she died before reaching the medical college.
It was the duty of the school authorities to have rushed her to a hospital. "I think they did not take the incident seriously," he said.
Wayanad district collector Adeela Abdulla termed the incident as "most unfortunate" and said action will be taken against those responsible. An education department official has been asked to submit a report on the allegation of delayed medical assistance to the child.
The additional district magistrate has been asked to visit the school, she said.
A deputy director, who came to the school, inspected the classroom this morning. Education minister C Raveendranath told reporters at Thiruvananthapuram that a preliminary report on the incident, had revealed lapse on the part of school authorities as despite knowing that she was bitten by a snake, there was delay in taking her to hospital.
"There was a lapse on the part of a teacher, Shijil and he has been suspended. Such incidents should not happen in our state," the minister said, adding this was a "painful lesson" for all. Orders have been given to close such holes in the floor of the school classrooms immediately, he said. About the students allegation that they were not allowed to wear footwear inside class, the minister said the education department had not issued any orders barring footwear inside classes.
PWD minister G Sudhakaran lashed out at the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) holding them responsible for the incident and said it was their duty to ensure such holes in floor of the classrooms were cemented. Meanwhile, angry local people and relatives barged into the staff room and tried to attack the teachers present, but were dissuaded by police personnel who are maintaining tight vigil at the school.