Playground in a school is a part and parcel of the school: Kerala High Court

The Kerala High Court has said that a playground in a school is a part and parcel of the school. Without a playground, there cannot be a school.

The education of the children is not in the classroom alone; it should spread to the playground as well.

Playgrounds are the ultimate classroom where children learn through play. The playground is where the children can themselves shine mentally and physically.

A Single Bench of Justice PV Kunhikrishnan disposed a Petition filed by the President of the Parent Teachers Association and the Managing Committee Member of the Government Welfare Lower Primary School, Thevayoor South, Pathanamthitta with a Prayer retraining respondent authorities  from constructing water tank or such other constructions without the permission of the educational authorities with in the compound of the 1st respondent (Government Welfare Lower Primary School).

The petitioners were forced to file the petition when there was an attempt from respondents 2 and 3 (District Panchayat ,Pathanamthitta and Kadampanad grama panchayath) to construct a water tank in the school ground without obtaining permission from the school authorities or higher authorities.

The petitioners produced photographs before the Court to show that the construction activities have already started in the playground of the school. At that stage the petition was filed.

Now it is conceded by both sides that the proposal to construct the water tank is dropped and there is no grievance to the petitioners. Therefore, the prayers in the petition are in effect  infructuous.

But, before closing this writ petition, it is to be reminded to the authorities about the importance of a playground in a school. Chapter IV Rule 1 of the Kerala Education Rules (KER) deals with the establishment and maintenance of schools. Chapter IV Rule 1 KER says about the minimum site area necessary for Lower Primary Schools, Upper Primary Schools with or without Lower Primary Section, Secondary Schools (High Schools) with or without Primary Section, Higher Secondary Schools with or without Primary Section and Training Schools with or without Model Schools. Chapter IV Rule 3 KER deals with playground and garden.   

Chapter IV Rule 3(2) says that every school shall have suitable playgrounds for games and sports. The site should contain sufficient clear space for the purpose. But the extent of the playground necessary in different types of schools mentioned in Chapter IV Rule 1 KER is not separately given in Chapter IV Rule 3(2) KER. It seems that taking advantage of this, some of the schools are not maintaining suitable playgrounds for games and sports with sufficient clear space. The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (the Right to Education Act) also does not specify the area needed for a playground. Serial No.2 of Schedule to the Right to Education Act, expressly states about specification of building required for establishing a school. There also, the area needed for a playground is not specifically mentioned. It only mentions that there should be a playground for the school.

But, as far as the affiliation of schools as per CBSE, ISCE, etc., it is clearly stated about the extent of the playground. In State of Kerala & Another v. Manager, Mahatma Public School, Kottackakom [2019 (3) KLJ 744], this Court held that the State in considering recognition either under the Right to Education Act and as stipulated by the affiliating Board/Body is competent to look into the norms and conditions of affiliation as prescribed by affiliating Board/Body and when so satisfied as to grant of recognition, shall also issue an NOC as required. Affiliation of Bye-laws 2018 of the Central Board of Secondary Education (for short, CBSE) deals about the playground. Clause 3.1.3 of the CBSE Affiliation of Bye-  laws 2018 says that the school or society/trust/ company managing the school must have land with a proper playground. The land on which the school is located should necessarily be a contiguous single plot of land.

If there are more than two survey numbers etc. all the survey numbers/plots should be adjacent/touching each other and shall make a single plot of land on the whole is the requirement as per 3.1-3.1.1. of the Affiliation Byelaws of CBSE. Clause 3.1 -3.1.3 says that a proper playground should exist on the remaining part of the land mentioned in Clause 3.1.1. Moreover Clause 4.7.9 of the CBSE Affiliation Bye-laws 2018 clearly says that a playground should consist adequate ground to create outdoor facilities for at least 200 meter Athletics Track, facilities for Kabbadi, Kho-Kho, Volleyball, basketball etc.

The Council for Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE) prescribed Affiliation Rules. As per Clause 4 (c) of the CISCE Rules for Affiliation, the school should have a minimum of 2000 sq.   metres of land, suitable buildings constructed on a part of the land and proper playgrounds on the remaining land with adequate facilities as prescribed from time to time by the Council. As per Chapter III of the CISCE Rules for Affiliation, at the time of inspection for affiliation, the size, suitability, maintenance, the games and sports that the ground is used for and games and sports equipment will be inspected.

Therefore, CBSE Affiliation Bye-laws 2018 and CISCE Rules for Affiliation clearly stipulate the facilities that are required in a school playground. But in the Kerala Education Act and Rules, the same is lacking except for a condition in Chapter IV Rule 3(2) KER which says that every school shall have suitable playground for games and sports and site should contain sufficient clear space for the purpose. Several schools in the State were established decades back. In several schools in the State, adequate playgrounds for games and sports with sufficient clear space is not available because of the subsequent   building constructions and even alienation of school property. The school authorities and aided school management are taking advantage of this lacuna in Chapter IV KER which is silent about the measurement of the playground necessary in the schools. Therefore, it is imperative to issue an order or regulation about the extent of the playground necessary in all schools in the State and the facilities required in the school’s playground.

“School playgrounds are an essential part of a child’s learning environment providing a safe and fun place to play. The playgrounds can help children to develop their physical, social, emotional and imaginative skills. The education should not be restricted in classrooms and the extra curricular activities including sports and games should also be a part of the education curriculum. It will increase the physical skills of the children like flexibility and balance motor skills, hand-eye co-ordination and heart and lung function, is the new   scientific study. Social skills, cognitive skills and emotional skills also will improve, if the children are allowed to engage in games and other activities in the school playground. This will definitely reduce the stress and anxiety of the children in the classroom.”

Therefore the Court opined that the Government should formulate a norm/guidline, in tune with Chapter IV Rules 1 and 3(2) of KER, prescribing the extent of playground necessary in each category of schools and also the requisite facilities. Right to education is a fundamental right of the children. The education includes play and other extra curricular activities. If there is no suitable playgrounds for games and sports in schools containing sufficient clear space for that purpose as provided in KER, the government should take stringent action including closure of those schools. The facilities that are necessary in playgrounds of schools may vary in LP Schools, U.P Schools, High Schools etc. But a proper norm/guideline is necessary.

Therefore, the Court disposed the Petition with the following directions to the State Government:  

1. The State of Kerala shall issue norms/guidelines in tune with Chapter IV Rule 3(2) of KER about the extent of playground necessary in each category of schools mentioned in Chapter IV Rule 1 and also the facilities required in school playground. The above norms/guidelines shall be issued by the Government within four months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment. 

2. Once the above norms/guidelines are issued, the educational authorities shall see that all the schools in the State are following the same and if any of the schools is not following the same, after giving sufficient opportunity and time to them, stringent action including closure   of the school should be ordered. 

3. The Registry shall forward a copy of the judgment to the Secretary, General Education Department, State of Kerala, forthwith.

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