The city administration and the provincial education department will not be able to ensure security to schools in the city. The officials have asked parents to take up duties at their children’s schools to manage security and regulate traffic around the campuses too.
The Sindh education department had earlier extended the winter vacations of all public and private schools in the province to January 12 in the wake of the Peshawar school massacre. It was believed that the authorities were using the time to come up with a comprehensive plan to provide security to academic institutions.
On Saturday, two days before the schools were scheduled to reopen, education secretary Dr Fazlullah Pechuho, commissioner Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Karachi police chief AIG Ghulam Qadir Thebo and other officials of the city administration addressed a press conference at Commissioner House, seeking help from the parents and schools’ administration to implement the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the security of schoolchildren.
“Teams of 10 parents each should visit the schools on alternate days to regulate the traffic and keep an eye out for any threats,” requested the education secretary. “Without help from the parents and schools administration, it would be impossible to manage the security of all the schools,” he reasoned.
Speaking about the administration’s plan of action, the secretary explained that the law enforcement agencies had set up dedicated helplines that the parents may contact in case of emergency. “The law enforcers would ensure their presence around schools at all times in the manner of plainclothes personnel. Moreover, uniformed law enforcers will be deployed within at least a four kilometre radius from the school,” he added.
The secretary admitted, however, that they were facing severe shortage of resources when it came to security arrangements as most schools in rural Sindh did not even have boundary walls. In Karachi, schools had been set up in almost every street, which posed a major problem.
The secretary added that after the schools reopened, law enforcement agencies would conduct a thorough security check of all non-teaching staff as most terrorist activities were seen to have had inside help. “In the meantime, school administrations must start vigilance of makeshift stalls of food and confectionary vendors around the schools,” he added.
For his part, AIG Thebo assured the parents that the police will take all possible security measures for students’ safety.
“There are security threats to educational institutions,” admitted AIG Thebo, adding that the police, with the help of the parents and school administration, could effectively counter these threats. AIG Thebo revealed that the police had identified six locations in Karachi where the threats were especially high. Referring to the discovery of six kilogrammes of explosives in North Nazimabad on Friday night, he added that there was a possibility that terrorists may attempt to target educational institutions, which is why it was important to implement the SOPs as soon as schools reopened.
For his part, Commissioner Siddiqui said they had no specific knowledge of possible terror attacks on schools but they had identified six localities, including Clifton and Defence Housing Authority where the children of law enforcers attended schools.
“We have also directed school administrations to start civil defence training for all students,” he said. “We will have to counter all these threats by staying united,” he concluded.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2015.