Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Muhammad Atif Khan on Wednesday denied that the government had permitted teachers to carry arms to schools.
Atif was speaking at a conference on the role of teachers in delivering quality education to children organised by Alif Ailaan at a local hotel.
In the aftermath of the December 16 massacre, several reports had quoted Minister for Information Mushtaq Ghani as saying teachers would be allowed to carry weapons with permits to school.
A press release sent by the information directorate on January 8, said: Teachers with licenced weapons will be allowed to bring them to school and parent-teacher councils can devise a system by which the said weapons can be used. On January 19 at a news briefing at Peshawar Press Club, Ghani was quoted as saying teachers with licenced weapons had started bringing their guns to school under the security plan devised by the government.
Refuting the news, the education minister said the government would not allow such a thing as it would negatively impact student well-being.
The education minister said the government had decided to allow Class-IV security guards to carry licenced arms in schools. “We are completely against an arms culture in schools and will not allow any teacher to carry arms on school premises.”
Money for security
“Rs1 billion has been sanctioned for the security of schools; adding height to existing boundary walls is the first priority,” said Atif about government -owned educational institutes across the province.
He added the height of every school’s boundary wall will be increased and topped with barbed wire. Licences for arms will be issued only to school security guards, not teachers, he reiterated.
“Providing security to more than 45,000 registered and unregistered educational institutions across K-P is not realistically possible,” said Atif, “As the province only has 65,000 police personnel.”
A large number of teachers from across the province participated in the conference, and presented their problems to the education minister.
Atif appreciated the role of teachers, given the current circumstances, and said their problems will be solved on a priority basis.
Rs800 million was allocated in the current budget for teacher training, said Atif. The training of primary, middle and high school teachers has already begun in K-P. In addition, Rs50 million will be allocated for awards for the best teachers and best principals in 2015.
CCTVs but no walls
Alif Ailaan representative Omar Orakzai said 6,050 schools across the province are still without boundary walls. Even after the APS attack, these schools remain exposed, something the government should consider, added Orakzai.
“The government has directed schools to install CCTV cameras, yet 11,280 schools in K-P have no electricity.”
From across the aisle
Also at the Alif Ailaan conference, former education minister Sardar Hussain Babak said the Army Public School (APS) attack greatly affected the education sector in Pakistan.
Political parties would blame his government, led by Awami National Party, when it targeted terrorists, said Babak. However, he added, the APS attack has united the nation and now everyone stands with the government and the Pakistan Army. “This is the time for the K-P CM to take control and fight against terrorists in support of the prime minister.”
Babak criticised the government’s decision to allow teachers to carry arms in schools; “Such a decision would promote an arms culture in our society, and negatively impact the younger generation.” Discussing the security status, Babak commented a large number of educational institutes remain closed in various districts as they continue to receive threats from unidentified elements.
“No educational institute is safe and it is the government’s responsibility to provide security and make security arrangements for every school,” said the former education minister. The government has to provide funds to all public schools so they can enhance their security arrangements, added Babak.
He also criticised the National Testing Service exam for teachers, and said the government should appoint teachers on a strictly academic basis.
Where teachers tread
All Primary Teachers Association provincial president Khalid Khan presented the problems of teachers in province at the conference, demanding a resolution of their issues.
Teachers in rural areas travel around 50 to 60 kilometres as they have been transferred to other districts, in line with the new PTI government policy, said Khalid. He said women and those indisposed cannot travel every day to far-flung schools. The association’s president demanded a revision to the transfer policy.
Women’s colleges shut down
The K-P government has decided to close 16 Frontier Education Foundation (FEF) colleges for women across the province. All FEF staff and students will be adjusted in nearby colleges, said sources on Wednesday.
Those familiar with the matter said the CM has called a meeting on Thursday (today) to decide the future of these colleges. FEF was started by former governor Iftikhar Hussain Shah in areas where there were few higher education institutes. There are currently 1,000 students and 523 teachers there.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 22nd, 2015.