KARACHI: For the children of Karachi, schools may never be the same again. The little joys of waiting for the school bell to ring and then running to the vendors to buy sweets, ice-lollies, ‘guriya kay baal’ and other delicacies outside schools might all have to come to an end in the name of security.
In response to the Sindh government’s directives to beef up security following the devastating attack in Peshawar, most schools are being turned into garrisons prior to re-opening on January 12 after the winter vacations.
However, many schools will not resume academic activities from Monday as a meeting presided over by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan had demanded school administrations to ensure ‘fool-proof security’ before reopening the institutions. The schools that would fail to make adequate security arrangements in compliance with the government-issued 21 standard operating procedures by Monday will only resume administrative work. The boundary walls of many private schools in posh areas are being raised, barbed wires are being fixed and even heavy sandbags are being placed along the boundary walls to thwart any possible terrorist attacks.
For a nation that is literally living in a warzone, said Rubina Feroz, a clinical psychologist and associate professor of psychology at Karachi University, saving lives takes precedence over the psychological impact of the intimidating security measures being taken to achieve the former.
Not adding up
Sindh education minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro appeared confident. “We are constantly alert in the face of threats posed by the terrorists,” he told The Express Tribune. On the other hand, the duty officer at the Gulistan-e-Jauhar police was registering his helplessness in deploying personnel at around 200 schools that fall within the jurisdiction of the police station.
“We have a total of 19 personnel at the police station. Of them, seven are deployed at different banks every day,” said the police officer. “How are we supposed to deploy personnel at every school?”
Can’t afford, really
Perhaps, Syed Khalid Shah, the chairperson of the All Private Schools Management Association, has understood the prevailing situation better. “The security threats are being faced by a few well-known private schools where the children of high-profile politicians and security officials are enrolled,” he said. “What the government is expecting us to comply with can only be followed by those schools that charge exorbitant fees from their students.”
Of over 15,000 private schools in the metropolis, Shah added that around 50% charge a monthly tuition fee ranging from Rs500 to Rs1,000 while another 30% charge a fee between Rs1,000 to Rs2,000. “The remaining 20% of the schools that charge fee from Rs3,000 up to Rs25,000 a month can afford to follow all the SOPs.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 11th, 2015.