A grave crisis is brewing in the Indian Community School Kuwait (ICSK) after the school’s board members were suspended and an investigative committee formed by the sponsor on Thursday, March 24. The sponsor’s actions come after allegations of financial irregularities and various other misdemeanours in the functioning of the school were made over the past several years.
The new investigative committee headed by the school’s chairman S.K. Wadhawan, and comprising a number of former board members and parents of students, was formed by the sponsor after a spate of complaints over the years went unheeded. The sponsor has also stipulated that the Board room remain locked and that board members be no longer permitted to enter the school premises until the investigations have been completed.
The Indian Community School Kuwait, formerly the Indian School, is the largest and oldest Indian school in the country with almost 7,000 students and was set up in the interests of the Indian community in Kuwait more than half a century ago. During the past 25 years there were several scandals surrounding the school and its board members, including embezzlement of funds, which led to two changes in the school’s sponsors, suspension of an entire school board and court cases to recover stolen funds.
At the heart of the present crisis lies the fate of 7,000 Indian students and their parents who have begun to express shock, confusion and disappointment at the turn of events. The community and parents are being kept in the dark about the developments as the blame game begins.
During the last two years several representations were made to the President of India, as well as the Prime minister, External Affairs Minister and the Indian ambassador in Kuwait, seeking their intervention to bring in transparency and better management in order to tide over the financial and administrative irregularities at the school.
As the school belongs to the community, several Indian associations have also made repeated representations to the Indian ambassador urging the embassy’s monitoring of the prevailing situation. They pointed out various violations of the school’s constitution, including several board members exceeding the terms of their tenure and exercising control over the school’s functioning far beyond their mandate.
At a meeting of all Indian associations, which was held in January at the embassy premises, the Secretary of the School’s Board, Vijayan Karayil, went so far as to brazenly claim that the community school’s constitution was a private document to which the community did not have any right to access. Also, the school’s chairman, who had taken over barely four months earlier, argued that there was nothing wrong in the functioning of the school and that everything was under control. Despite this, allegations of irregularities in the functioning of the school continued to increase.
With the board refusing to entertain suggestions or look into complaints from the community, it was only a matter of time before things boiled over. The sponsor’s latest move in suspending the board, until the investigative committee comes out with its report, shows that the school board’s mode of operations is solely responsible for this present crisis.
Meanwhile, several prominent members of the community have expressed displeasure and concern at the turn of events and have called for the Indian embassy to intervene. They note that the board members, who have lost the confidence of the community since a long time and, despite this, continue to retain their positions, should step aside. They are calling for the entire school board to be reconstituted in a democratic and transparent manner with participation of the entire community.
It is not logical that board members, who have honorary in their titles, cling on to their positions in the school board despite the end of their tenures. With the school having millions of dinars in its account, any request for transparency in the accounting process is often ignored with the snide remark that these requests come from people with vested interests or from disgruntled elements of the community.
When The Times Kuwait contacted board members for their version of the incident, they claimed a different story. They argued that money, land and building of a new school were at the root of the problem and it was not their lack of transparency, financial misappropriation or administrative irregularities that led to the suspension.
Moreover, Mr. Wadhawan claimed that after taking over as chairman, he has initiated several steps aimed at improving the image and enhancing the overall functioning of the school. He also promised better management practices and transparency, but requested more time to implement these changes. He added that the board is making attempts to restore the school’s community status and will also look into grievances made by the community.
Or his part, the Indian Ambassador Sunil Jain told The Times Kuwait that this situation is of concern and has to be resolved in the best and most amicable way so to ensure that Indian students are not affected.
Incidentally, the school also has a Council of Elders body who are responsible to look into the overall functioning of the board. Ironically, these ‘Elders’ have also been holding onto their own positions for the last 15 years in contravention to the provisions of the constitution. The failure to act on the part of the so-called ‘Elders’ have also contributed to present state of the school’s functioning and the sponsor’s latest actions.
We can only hope, at least for the sake of the students, that better sense will prevail among those responsible and the school will see brighter days ahead.
Mr. Vijay Karayil
Mr. Bobby A. Mathew
Honorary Vice Chairman
Mr. S K Wadhawan
Mr. Sunil Kumar
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