Mumbai, Mar 20 (TOI): The oddity is difficult to miss. Video surveillance is usually meant to monitor random goings-on. Yet, tutorial centres in shanties across the city are installing CCTV cameras to log countless hours of coaching.
Turns out, this technology acts as class monitor in a space where women teachers find it difficult to instill discipline among rowdy students and male faculty too is similarly challenged while not being able to use the rod. So, cameras make regulation simpler and time is not wasted in arguments over who hit or pinched first, or who brought firecrackers to class.
"Whether it is keeping tabs on children or teachers, or ensuring that minor thefts are resolved at our level, there are many benefits of the CCTV camera," says Deepak Gadi, owner of Ashirwad Classes in Hanuman Nagar slums in Kandivli.
Gadi speaks of those who break the rules and bring cellphones to class and of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act and the importance of creating a suitable environment in his jhopadi (hut) which is a tutorial by the day.
"When I hire teachers, I look at their academic qualification and their ability to teach. When I enrol students, I know they must learn. But what unfolds is not often that what is mostly desired. With the cameras, everyone is a bit worried about doing anything incorrect."
Slumtorials have come up in various pockets of the city and are recording heavy enrolment. Located above a tailor shop or a butchery, a restaurant or a cloth store where rentals are low, these coaching centres are mostly single classroom entities with walls plastered with glossy white tiles similar to those in public urinals.
Of late, the interiors are also studded with cameras and projectors connected to cellphones and laptops.
At a coaching class in Antop Hill, dividing the class and the kitchen is a blackboard hinged on one side of the wall. A stick is used to pull down a plastic sheet, which acts as a projector screen when a concept in science has to be explained from a video hosted on YouTube. And above the plastic sheet are two bulky cameras that keep tabs on students. "Earlier, 20-25 minutes in an hour-long class would get wasted because students would fight. If I complained to their parents, each one would blame the other. Now with the cameras, I show parents the footage and ask them to ensure their child behaves in class," says owner Gayatri Dwivedi. "The cameras have made life simpler. I can ask students to take a test and sometimes I attend to my baby and watch the class from the monitor behind the blackboard."
With cameras getting cheaper, most slumtorials say it does not pinch them to instal the system. "As more and more classes come up in the slums, we are witnessing a kind of cottage industry that is keeping pace with the latest developments. By having cameras, not only are the owners ensuring security of their students, but also their teachers," says Prajesh Trotsky, a consultant to several slum coaching classes and secretary of the Maharashtra Coaching Class Owners' Association. "One must understand that both the faculty and students are largely drawn from the same slums which are usually witness to petty fights and crimes."