In the wake of the attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School in 2014, many schools across the country had been directed to install extra security apparatus to deal with the threat of terrorism. However, security audits of institutions across the Punjab have shown a progressive deterioration from May till August.
Following the last check in May, the recent audit in August has shown that implementation of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) remains poor in 5,083 Category-A institutions.
It is worrying that the authorities concerned have failed to maintain security standards in these schools — let alone improve them in accordance with the SOPs. However, it should be highlighted that security of all education institutions must be of equal importance. There is no reason for categorisation of education institutions — whether in terms of education quality or of security measures — in a constitutional republic that considers education as a basic right of all school-age children. For, the message such categorisation sends out is this: all Pakistani children may have a right to education, but they don’t necessarily have a right to good quality education or uniform standards of security at spaces where they will be imparted that education.
The SOPs include installation of night vision CCTV cameras, and wireless communication walk through gates as well as presence of armed security guards as essentials for security.
Such measures end up making playgrounds resemble cages and school buildings increasingly walled from the surrounding environment. These are an indication of the defensive and reactionary posture of the agencies concerned.
While some of these measures may be useful in the short-term, a durable and a long-term solution needs to be tied to concomitant efforts at eradicating the menace of extremism and ensuring good and uniform quality education for all Pakistani children.
The audit found that there were no snipers in 376 institutions — hardly a regrettable result. Imagine the thought of sending our children to schools where snipers are mounted on the rooftop, aiming their gun at the entrance.
While security measures are an effective short-term strategy, the need to have them as permanent fixtures is too high a demand on schools and unlikely to achieve the intended results. Security provisions should not be ruled out entirely, but total dependence on them is a worrying indicator of the priorities and un-innovative defence mechanisms against terrorism. The question remains if we can afford more tragedies before the government not only rethinks its counter terrorism policies but also implements them?*
Published in Daily Times, September 12th 2017.