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January 9, 2015

School security

Editorial

January 9, 2015

Security for schools is currently the subject of discussion everywhere, following the horrific attack in Peshawar on December 16. The concern is of course very real. News reports say private schools have lagged in taking adequate security measures, while the Punjab CM, visiting the Elite Police Training School said campus security will be a key priority and there will be no compromises on it. More meetings are scheduled, but the matter of how the authorities are tackling the issue everywhere raises a number of questions. In Karachi, senior Sindh police officials have decided on a contingency plan under which private schools would be required to heighten boundary walls, set up CCTV cameras and move parking areas away from school buildings. Special assault forces are also being set up to tackle any situation that may arise. Similar orders had been issued in Punjab, where schools were suddenly shut down for an extended winter vacation on December 19. The provincial education minister Rana Mashood Ahmed Khan has already warned that schools failing to comply could face closure. Still more stringent action is underway in Peshawar, where an extensive survey form on existing safety measures has been circulated, and a ‘one-click’ mobile phone service set up to contact police. Work is also on in KP and Punjab to raise the walls of government schools.
While protecting our children must be a priority, are we going about it the right way? Authorities appear to have essentially pushed responsibility onto the private schools, because they themselves have failed to combat militancy. The smaller schools ask how they can be expected to find funds for walk-through gates or sniffer dogs, as has been suggested for Peshawar schools. We ask too what impact entering schools that resemble fortresses or prisons will have on our children. There is already much fear everywhere, and this benefits the terrorists; creating more well not help. There has to be a better way. In the first

place the government must accept that fighting militancy is primarily its responsibility. Private institutions like schools can at best only help. It is not probable that raised walls and armed guards will defeat terrorists. Only governmental commitment and a willingness to accept responsibility can achieve this. We see right now too little real resolve, deeply worrying given the situation we live in right now.

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