It’s a do-or-die situation. But neither our government nor school management are capable enough to provide foolproof security to our children. So what’s the solution? How long we can keep our educational institutions closed? How far we can live under threat? These are pertinent questions that are to be raised, responded and resolved at every level
Extended Winter Vacations in Schools are about to end and children across Pakistan are ready to go back to school. After all fun-filled visits to family and friends, festivals and festivities; this is the time to resume studies in educational institutions. However, the dilemma each parent is confronting at the moment is ‘Are we Ready to send our children back to schools under the open threat of attacks from militants’? I am just wondering if we are…! When I posed the same question to the principal of my children’s school in these words, “What if there’s another attack and that would be our school?” She looked shocked and responded with utter disbelief. “God Forbid! acchi baat mau sai nikalai.” “But…!, I tried to explain however was quickly interrupted with a ready-made response, “We have taken all the required measures, you can go and check the notice board at the entrance. And if you are still keen, take a separate appointment to discuss the matter further. Baqi Allah is Great, Trust Him.”
On one side, mainstream media regularly feature activities of countless committees and statements of ministers and law enforcing agencies regarding the stringent security measures and foolproof initiatives claimed to be enforced. But are they trustworthy with their conflicting claims? The other day, I have seen the warning of Punjab Education minister Rana Mashood to the educational institutions that if they failed to follow the security instructions of the home department, they would be sealed till satisfactory arrangements.
On the other side, schools’ management resisted, saying that the authorities’ pressure to increase number of trained and armed security guards, installation of CCTV cameras, metal detectors or walkthrough gates, alarms and construction of boundary walls with barbed wires on them at their expense reflect the fact that the state is unable provide security to its educational institutions
The situation is not much different in other provinces including Sindh, KPK and Baluchistan where high ups from intelligence, police and provincial governments claimed to have a liaison with the management of schools, colleges and universities for essential security measures to avoid sequel of Army Public School Peshawar incident in any city. However, at the same time the Additional IG Karachi Ghulam Qadir Thebo accepted the fact that they don’t have sufficient staff to provide security to all schools in the city so private schools with heavy fee structure were instructed to take independent security measures on their own. The provincial governments obviously pass the buck to educational institutions by issuing redundant directives regarding distant parking, vigilance at entrance, exits and staff training. But who is responsible to ensure the monitoring and implementation of the directives is crucial to ask.
Being parents we are totally puzzled and threatened. We don’t believe in all these hollow claims, responsibility-shifting gimmicks and publicity stunts. What we are increasingly concerned about are the security of our children, teachers and educational institutions. Not only that we also demand the fool-proof security of other public places including shopping malls, cinemas and religious places.
What I strongly believe is that rather than extending school’s winter vacations or blaming each other, we as a community, consisting of parents, teachers, students, staff and civil society need to join hands and do whatever we can as our responsibility to our community. The primary objective is to ensure efficient surveillance measures to prevent access of terrorists to our schools, colleges and universities. For that purpose installation of functional detectors, alarms, cameras and engagement of professionally trained security guards is indispensable. Schools, state and parents have to bear the cost mutually since it’s the matter of our children’s survival and security
Besides, effective Civil Defense crash programme should be introduced in all educational institutions and offices as mandatory training.
Civil Defense is an effective tool to combat militants and security threat that implies emergency operations and evacuations, preventive measures, recovery and response drills. Educational institutions must engage civil defense experts and volunteers to train their staff, teachers and senior students for any emergency situation or attack.
I might sound ambitious but there are incidents in the world and in even our own country where civilians effectively prevent deadly attacks and accidents through timely action and decisions. Considering the massive scale and severity of the situation, we have no option but to learn how to combat such attacks and how we can protect ourselves and people around us.
According to Sean Coughlan, the Education Correspondent of BBC News,
“Terror attacks on schools and colleges have risen to higher levels than at any point in more than 40 years world over.” Since 2004, there is a marked increase in such attacks as indicated by the global terrorism database and unfortunately Pakistan topped the list even prior to Peshawar attack in December, which, no doubt is the deadliest and one of its own kind. Thus it demands equally serious Defense measures.
What is crucial to understand is the fact that we cannot live under terror for good. In order to rear and prepare our children in the current environment, we have to take proactive measures. No politician, state, government, army, police or even educational institution can help and protect us unless we decide to help ourselves. This is high time we need to equip ourselves to protect our future and our children since it’s the matter of our survival.