In an unusual move, Rawalpindi Cantonment Board officials sealed two private schools on Tipu Road while students of the primary section were still inside the premises.
The unexpected closure of the schools caused panic among the students, who cried uncontrollably. The Cantonment boards had earlier announced to seal schools from January 1.
Upon hearing the hue and cry, nearby shopkeepers, citizens and passers-by gathered in large numbers and the school administrations also informed the parents about their children, who had been locked inside the schools.
Parents also showed up and staged a protest demonstration against the Cantonment board administration for locking up their children in the schools.
The All-Pakistan Private Schools Association (APPSA) members also joined them in their protest.
With students continuously crying inside the sealed schools as their parents and owners sat outside the schools protesting, the Cantonment authorities eventually broke the locks and allowed the children to leave before resealing the schools.
On Monday, Cantonment Boards of Rawalpindi and Chaklala sealed a total of 13 private schools functioning in residential areas.
Meanwhile, High Court Rawalpindi bench judge Raheel Kamran will hear APPSA’s constitutional petition against the closure of schools and the Cantonment Act of 1924 on Tuesday (today).
The high court has issued notices to Rawalpindi and Chaklala Cantonment boards, seeking old and new maps of both cantonments.
Protesting the school closure at 11 am despite the presence of students inside, the parents insisted that the children should not suffer an ordeal like that.
Meanwhile, APPSA President Raja Ilyas and divisional president Irfan Muzaffar Kayani said that the sealing of schools before the December 31 deadline was unjustified and illegal and will not be tolerated under any circumstances.
They warned that legal action will be taken against the Cantonment boards administration if anything untoward happened to the children.
Attendance at an all-time low
Due to the current situation, parents have stopped sending their children to private schools in the cantonment areas. Attendance of students in all private schools within the limits of Cantonment boards was extremely low on Monday. A large number of parents have also started enrolling their children in other private schools, as the Cantonment boards have unequivocally announced that not a single private school will be allowed to remain open in 42 Cantonment boards across the country from January 1.
In the last four days, a total of 23 schools have been sealed in both Cantonment boards of Rawalpindi. Parents of students in private schools have started filing petitions — 342 so far—against the closure of schools.
On Monday, hundreds of parents visited the offices of the two boards and presented the chief executive officers signed notes, strongly condemning the decision of sealing the setups and demanding the reversal of the decision.
The parents have taken the stance that since no government school was functioning in the Cantonment areas, they have no option but to send their children to these private schools.
Meanwhile, Rawalpindi District Bar Association lawyers also showed up at the board offices to protest against the forced closure of schools while petitions were yet to be heard.
Advocates Masood Al Hassan Shah and Najaf Hasnain argued that providing free education was the constitutional responsibility of the government and the decision to close down private schools should be reversed.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2021.
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