Private schools oppose new fire safety rules in Karnataka

Private schools, including aided ones, and pre-university schools in Karnataka are crying foul over newly introduced fire safety rules that they say cannot be retrospectively implemented.A circular was recently sent to schools and colleges listing out the rules they would have to comply with by the start of the next academic year.

According to the new rules, existing school buildings would have to be assessed to verify whether they meet the structural fire safety criteria for educational institutions specified in the National Building Code. Buildings which meet the criteria would be certified as such as the certification must be renewed every five years.
Educational institutions would be permitted to function only if they meet these criteria and obtain No Objection Certificate, compliance certificate and advisory certificate from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services which must be renewed every two years.

Private institutions have criticised the new rules, with a major contention being the exclusion of government schools. They also said that complying with the new rules would be expensive for them. Over 90% of private schools in Karnataka are budget schools, where annual fees are between Rs 10,000 and Rs 40,000, said an administrator at Jawahar English Medium School in Ballari.

“How is it possible for a school to spend lakhs of rupees on these new norms? Due to the pandemic, many parents have not enrolled their children in school, or are not able to even pay the first installment of the fee, while the government has delayed RTE reimbursements. Teachers are not even able to get half their salaries,” he said. The Associated Managements of Primary and Secondary Schools in Karnataka has sought the withdrawal of the new rules for existing schools. They urged the government to consider the 2018 rules for safety in schools established before 2017.