Fear gripped students of Sophia High School as Mona, a third standard student, died of dengue on Sunday. Mona is the second student from the school to succumb to the disease in the last week and the third this academic year.
The school, that boasts of alumni who include Vijay Mallya, Deepika Padukone, Nisha Millet and Maneka Gandhi, has cancelled unit tests and declared a two-day holiday to mourn the deaths of its students.
The three deaths have sent shockwaves among the parents of the students in the nursery and primary schools. The school management plans to use the two-day break to put preventive measures in place. It plans to fumigate the school premises and cover classroom windows with nets.
Parents had frequently voiced complaints regarding the state of affairs at Barat Building, one of four buildings which house classrooms. The classrooms of all the three students who died are located in Barat building, located next to an open drain which falls just outside the school premises. The school itself is located next to the Karnataka Golf Association golf course which is watered daily. Both the drain and the course are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
Classrooms of second, third and fourth standards are located in Barat building. Each class has four sections and each section about 60 students, which means that the lives of about 700 students are at risk.
The school principal and others in-charge of management were unavailable for comment, but Bangalore Mirror managed to speak to one of the nuns who run the school.
“The school has been shut for two days to condole the deaths of the students. We are taking this opportunity to conduct a thorough cleaning of the premises in the hope that the virus does not re-surface,” she said.
Mona’s death comes on the heels of the death of Chehel Bafna, a fourth standard student, on October 1. Chehel first began running a temperature and a local doctor prescribed standard medication. When Chehel’s fever refused to subside, her parents took her to Republic Hospital in Richmond Town.
Doctors there ordered immediate blood tests. The situation escalated when diagnostic centres were unable to draw blood from the now pale and limp Chehel. She was shifted to Manipal Hospital and kept in the ICU, but her condition continued to deteriorate.
Three more children are said to be ill with dengue-like symptoms, but the school claims they are only down with a viral fever.
However, a teacher at the high-profile institution, said, “It is sad but true. Two children have passed away at the school. We are taking necessary steps to improve safety conditions at the school. We are conducting fumigation procedures, installing nets on the windows and taking initiatives to brighten classrooms, among many other things.”
When contacted, Devaki Umesh, chief medical officer, health department, BBMP, said, “It is a clear case of negligence on the part of the school. There is construction going on near the school and we had issued notice to them. Action will be taken against people responsible. A team from our department will visit the school and the construction premises on Tuesday.”