Karnataka Child Rights Commission takes note, lodges suo moto complaint against school authorities, and asks officials to take swift action.
The APJ Abdul Kalam residential school in Yadgir’s Saidapur in Karnataka is currently facing a severe health crisis. In recent months, there has been a widespread outbreak of scabies, impacting nearly 200 children, teachers, and other staff.
Scabies, a highly contagious skin condition characterised by extreme itchiness, is caused by tiny mites that burrow into the skin. The situation at the school calls for urgent medical and preventive actions to control and manage the infestation effectively.
The apathy of the school, located in Balacheda village in Yadgir district, was noticed during an inspection by Shashidhar Kosambe, member of Karnataka State Commission for Protection of Child Rights (KSCPCR).
The officer noted during an attendance call that of the 506 children, many were absent. And those who were present were scratching their hands and had blisters on their arms and legs.
On further enquiry, the officer found that at least 20-30 children miss class on a regular basis due to the scabies infection and other health reasons.
A suo moto complaint has been registered against the authorities and a letter has been sent to the District Officer of the Minority Welfare Department.
Speaking to South First, Kosambe said, “I was surprised to see the unhygienic condition of the hostel. Surprisingly, neither the warden nor the principal of the school was present on the day of my visit.”
“I was shocked and surprised at the kind of neglect the school’s authorities have shown. It is against the KSCPCR rules. What if any untoward incidents happen in school in the absence of the principal and warden?” he asked, concerned.
He said that more than 300 children in the school, which has students from Class 6 to II PUC, are suffering from a strange skin disease. Children are experiencing severe itching, blisters, wrinkles all over their body and about 15 to 20 children are absent from school on a daily basis citing these symptoms.
“The parents said that the children would go home, take treatment and come back to school only to end up getting the skin infection again,” he explained.
Kosambe said that there were many other problems in the school. While there was a problem with drinking water, children also complained of not getting hot water for bath.
“There is a overhead tank which is not even covered with anything and the sump is filled with waste and this is used as drinking water too. It is in extremely dirty condition and children also complained that they do not get hot water to bathe,” the officer said.
The officer added that there was absolutely no nutritious food given in the hostel of the school. Children apparently also complained to him about finding worms in the food several times.
Most of the water available in the school was unfit for drinking. Suspecting that this may be the cause of the children’s skin disease, he demanded a health check-up for all.
Kosambe raised this issue in a meeting of officials held at the district centre on Tuesday and suggested that a team of doctors be sent to the school immediately to treat the skin disease.
“It is only saaru (rasam), which is highly watery. There is absolutely no nutrition in the kind of food that is being served to the children. When the government is spending crores of rupees to provide nutrition to these children, why is it that the authorities are giving such nutritionless food to them?” he asked.
When South First spoke to the District Health Officer of Yadgir Dr Prabhuling Mankar, he dismissed it as “just scabies”. He said that this is a contagious infection caused by mites and it is nothing to worry about.
“This is a contagious infection and that is the reason why it has spread to many students. There is nothing to worry about and everything here is all right. Our team visited the students, checked them, and found that there were no other health complications,” he stated.
Surprisingly, when the medical team visited the school on Wednesday, of the 506 children, 426 who were present were checked and of this, 186 children were found to have scabies. Of these, 16 have a severe infection.
Medical check-ups for a few more children are yet to be done. Even staff and teachers have also got this infection.
Dr Mankar insisted that all the other conditions in the hostel are good and that even their food is nutritious. “I even ate the food myself. It is very nutritious food that is being given,” he argued.
Dermatologist from Bengaluru Dr Girish MS explained to South First that scabies is caused by an infection of the skin by the human itch mite (Sarcoptes scabiei var. hominis).
This tiny mite burrows into the top layer of the skin where it lives and lays its eggs. The main causes and risk factors for scabies infection include close physical contact.
He explained, “Scabies is most often spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It’s common in crowded environments and where close body contact is frequent, such as in families, hostels, nursing homes, etc.”
Dr Girish said that unhygienic living conditions and limited access to regular bathing and clean clothes can increase the risk of scabies spread.
Scabies infestation presents with several distinct symptoms, primarily due to an allergic reaction to the mites, their eggs, and their waste, he further explained.
The main symptoms is intense itching, which usually worsens at night. Also, appearance of a pimple-like rash is another hallmark of scabies. The rash may consist of small red bumps and blisters. Thin, irregular burrow tracks made up of tiny blisters or bumps on your skin, which are often found in the webbing between fingers, on the wrists, elbows, armpits, waist, knees, around the waist, buttocks, genitals, and feet, can also be seen.
“Scratching the itchy rash can lead to sores, which may become infected. It’s important to note that symptoms may take four to six weeks to appear after the initial infestation for those who have never had scabies before,” he said.
Dr Girish warned that if you suspect a scabies infestation, it’s crucial to seek medical attention as the condition is highly contagious and requires treatment to be eradicated.
“It’s also crucial to treat all close contacts and to wash all bedding, clothing, and towels used by the infested person to prevent re-infestation. Remember, while the mites die quickly without a host, meticulous hygiene practices are essential for complete eradication of the infestation,” Dr Girish added.
Meanwhile, the KSCPCR has lodged a suo moto case against the authorities and has also directed the district officer of the Minority Welfare Department, the DHO, and other concerned officials to immediately visit the school and take stock of the situation.
The directive also stated that the officials should get the water tested for any impurities and ensure hygiene is maintained in all the rooms. Also, ensure nutritious food is served to the children.
A report has been sought by the District Commissioner, the DHO, and other concerned authorities regarding this.