Schools in most parts of the country are ready to reopen from January 12, with those in Sindh having been told that they can only reopen only if they have adequate security arrangements in place. An extension in winter vacations was announced soon after the terrible events at the Army Public School in Peshawar. The tragic incident shook the authorities into action, with strikes against militants increasing across the country. Students are now ready to don their uniforms once again after spending their winter holidays watching the horror that unfolded in Peshawar, as well as its aftermath. But as stated previously, the schools that they are eager to rejoin may not reopen unless they have “foolproof” security measures in place, in the words of a statement released after a meeting of senior officials of the Sindh government.
It seems that the authorities in Sindh at least have made the school administrations responsible for arranging their own security, which is an immature strategy at best. One hopes that other provincial authorities do not have similar ideas. With countless schools operating in the country, it is unlikely that all of them will have the resources, the expertise and the capacity to arrange proper security checks and prepare for an attack as brazen as the one in Peshawar. The ultimate responsibility for providing security lies with the federal and provincial governments and law enforcement agencies. Deterrents can be placed in the form of strict checks at school entrances, allowing only authorised vehicles to enter premises and hiring guards to man the boundaries around school buildings. While these measures can be taken more easily in larger school buildings, they may be difficult to implement in schools located in dense neighbourhoods. There is a need for governments and law enforcement agencies to form plans that take into account all these considerations. Keeping shut those schools that are unable to ensure adequate security is not a solution to the problem at hand.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2015.