RAWALPINDI: Though the terrorist attack at an army-run school in Peshawar prompted the federal government and law enforcement agencies to protect the citizens from such attacks in future through robust security steps, the Punjab government seems hapless in preventing such attacks on its educational institutes.
The provincial education department has directed school heads in Rawalpindi to hire security guards and pay their salaries from their available funds.
An official of the district education department wishing not be named told The Express Tribune that the school heads have been asked to use money being collected in the head of Farogh-i-Taleem Fund (FTF) to hire and make payments to the security guards.
“The school heads have been directed to hire security guards against a meagre salary of Rs4,000 a month,” the official said adding that schools could only manage to pay for walkthrough gates, metal detectors and CCTV cameras but not monthly salaries, as they are highly underfunded.
The official said that most school heads have informed the EDO education that no one would agree to work and risk his life for a pittance.
“No one will agree to work on a salary less than Rs15,000 and schools cannot manage such salaries from the FTF and other funds allocated to them annually,” he said.
The district education department allocates Rs20,000 to each primary, Rs40,000 to each middle and Rs80,000 to each high school every year to meet petty expenditures including purchasing stationery. Besides this, schools charge Rs20 from each student in the head of FTF.
School teachers have termed the move a cruel joke, urging the authorities to take concrete steps to provide security to the students and the teachers, who feel more insecure after the Peshawar school carnage.
“The provincial government should hire security guards on a permanent basis with suitable salaries and other perks and privileges,” said Punjab Teachers’ Union District President Hamid Ali Shah. He said that though people in large number will agree to work on such a low salary due to rising unemployment, they will never risk their lives if a Peshawar school-like situation occurs.
The teachers said that the FTF was not meant to make payments against salaries and the government should allocate separate funds for security purposes.
“The FTF and other funds are meant for meeting routine expenditures such as purchasing chalks, paper and pen and repairing chairs,” said PTU general secretary Rana Liaquat.
“The government should either allocate separate funds or drop the idea of hiring security guards as no school can consistently pay them from its funds,” he said.
The EDO was contacted several times on his phone and through text messages to get his version, but he could not be contacted.
Morning assemblies suspended
The provincial education department has also directed schools to suspend morning assemblies for the time being. It has also asked district education departments not to open schools unless all security arrangements were in place.
The district education departments have also been directed to complete construction of boundary walls by January 15.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 29th, 2014.