As the government reviews security measures following winter vacations, owners of private schools said the costs associated with the arrangements could result in a large number of the institutes winding up for good.
Security arrangements at around 915 private and 1,600 government schools were declared satisfactory by authorities led by DC Peshawar.
In the wake of the attack on the Peshawar Army Public School (APS) on December 16, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government directed all government and private educational institutes to ensure proper security measures are in place before schools reopen on January 12.
Government officials visiting the schools in various districts checked the new arrangements, including increasing the height of boundary walls, installation of CCTV cameras, arrangement of walk-through gates and deployment of security guards at entry points.
According to All Pakistan Private Schools Association, the total number of private schools in Peshawar is 2,027 of which 915 were checked and their security arrangements were declared satisfactory.
Talking to journalists, the K-P All Pakistan Private School Association President Zakir Shah said it was impossible for the managements of institutes to meet all the conditions of the government. Shah highlighted the government had imposed 12 different types of taxes on private schools and the added cost of security would result in a large number of the institutes shutting down.
The association’s president said the fees of 95% of students at private schools was between Rs500 and Rs1,000. He added deploying extra security personnel and setting up walk-through gates would also increase the fee structure and place an added burden on parents’ shoulders.
Criticising the government, Shah said it was the responsibility of authorities to provide all children with an education. He underlined it was also the government’s duty to provide security at educational institutes. He said private schools were trying their best to support authorities during this difficult time, but if officials failed to cooperate, the education ratio in the province would decrease.
At the same time, Deputy Director Education Muhammad Azam Khan said 1,600 government schools, including primary, middle and secondary institutes, were found to have satisfactory security arrangements in Peshawar district, while work was under way at the remainder. He said the boundary walls were increased to eight feet and barbed wire was also installed over them.
He said extra funds were allocated for the improvement of schools, while government funding for parents and teachers’ councils was also increased. He said the Android-based ‘One Click’ SOS alert system would be used at all schools to alert authorities within 10 seconds of any emergency situation.
The December 16 attack on the APS left the entire nation stunned. At least 150 people, mostly children, were brutally murdered in the Tehreek-e-Taliban-orchestrated massacre. The militant group claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was an act of revenge on the Pakistan Army for Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
The school itself will have a redesigned boundary wall when it reopens. Engineer Majid Khan, who designed the reconstruction plan, told The Express Tribune the previous boundary walls had been demolished. “It will be replaced by a new one,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 8th, 2015.