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February 1, 2016

Confusion over reopening of private schools in Punjab persists

Top Story

February 1, 2016

Class-5 exams begin today; faction of teachers association announces boycott of exams; Mashhood promises no more sealing of private campuses, registration of cases

LAHORE: While the Punjab government claims that all public and private schools of the province will reopen on Monday (today), many leading private schools will not open because of what they term ‘harassment’ by the government in the name of security.

Talking to The News here on Sunday, Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan said it was decided in a meeting with representatives of the private schools that all schools would reopen on Monday as the government assured them of cooperation vis-a-vis measures for security of campuses.

The minister said police had been barred from sealing private schools independently and registering FIRs against the management of private schools for not following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for security of schools. However, he said the district committees, having representation of private sector schools, would decide if any particular school should be sealed on account of poor security arrangements.

Various leading private schools, including the Beaconhouse school system that associates itself with All-Pakistan Private Schools Federation, claim there was no breakthrough, hence schools including the Lahore Grammar School, Beaconhouse Group (including BN and TNS-B), City School Network, LACAS, Salamat School System and Kids Kampus, Learning Alliance and Lahore Preschool, Resource Academia, LGS Landmark Schools, Allied Schools, Smart Schools and The Educators etc, would remain closed on Monday (today).

Schools across Punjab were closed on the orders of the Punjab government on Jan-25 night on the pretext of severe weather conditions. However, a large majority of people believed schools were closed to beef up security arrangements. The leading private schools claim they had taken maximum security measures but still the government officials were harassing them, sealing their campuses and registering FIRs. They say security provision was a responsibility of the government, but the government was shifting it over to private schools alone.

The prevailing confusion and uncertainty is causing mental torture among students and their parents.

Meanwhile, the class-5 examination, being conducted by the Punjab Examination Commission (PEC), would start on Monday (today). Different teachers associations had announced boycott of the PEC exams in protest against handing over of some 5,000 primary schools to private sector and other issues, being faced by teachers.

Many of them later called off their boycott following assurances from the secretary schools. However, a faction of the Punjab Teachers Union (Allah Bakhsh Qaiser Group) is still insisting on boycotting the exams. Therefore, a disturbance is likely in the conduct of the exam in different parts of Punjab, especially in Jhang district, where the group is strong. The Punjab government has also imposed Section 144 in and around the examination centres for smooth conduct of the exam.

Also, according to a handout, after successful negotiations with the Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, All Pakistan Private Schools Federation has announced reopening of private schools on Monday (today) throughout the province.

Representatives of private schools, led by Kashif Mirza, held detailed negotiations with Rana Mashhood, DCO Lahore Capt (retd) Usman Younis, CCPO Lahore Capt (retd) Amin Wains and officers of Education Department regarding their reservations over the steps being taken for security of schools.

The minister assured that schools sealed on unsatisfactory security arrangements were being opened immediately. He said the cases registered against some schools had also been frozen and these would be ended on completion of security arrangements. He said no action could be taken against any school on individual report of any official. He said police officials would not be allowed to harass the staff in the name of security or going to schools. He said the management of private schools should not allow anyone to enter the institution without any identification. He said no action would be taken against any school without the recommendation of security committee concerned. No compromise would be made on security SOPs, he added.

Talking to the media, Rana Mashhood said no case would be registered against any school in future; however, owners of private schools would have to discharge their responsibilities regarding security of children. He said the entire nation was in the state of war against terrorism, but closure of schools would promote agenda of terrorists.




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