Nov 09 - 15, 2009

Following attack at International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) that claimed precious lives of many, ensuring security of all the educational institutions nationwide has become a challenge for the government.

After the tragic incident all the government and private educational institutions were closed down across the country out of panic.

After the incident, the Punjab government asked security agencies and the education department/institutions to take special measures on war footing to strengthen the security arrangements.

There is a general perception that most of the private schools are built on commercial motive and therefore they charge hefty fees for education. However, neither they provide adequate salaries to their teachers nor facilitates to students.

With a view to providing protection to the educational institutions, the government is contemplating to mobilize school councils and Mohallah committees. Security measures can prove fruitful only with the public cooperation.

The Senior Advisor to the Chief Minister, Sardar Zulfikar Ali Khan Khosa has directed the heads of educational institutions to maintain record of visitors of the institutions besides putting in place proper security mechanism.

According to the Punjab Minister for Education, Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman, the government will provide every possible cooperation and assistance to private educational institutions for ensuring security.

He said that representation would be given to all organizations of private schools in the Provincial Education Commission. He said security guards of private educational institutions would be given training in Police Elite School so that protection of students and teachers could be ensured. He said private sector was playing an important role in the promotion of education and government would make foolproof security arrangements for private as well as public educational institutions in this critical hour.

The minister said government had proposed protective measures keeping in view the school fees. The schools have been bound to purchase metal detectors and walk through gates. He said government would issue armed licenses to the security guards of private schools.

According to Deputy Speaker Punjab Assembly Rana Mashhood Ahmed Khan, the representatives of private schools organizations need to be included in the committee constituted by the Chief Minister Punjab Mohammad Shahbaz Sharif for the preparation of security plan for the private schools. He said a comprehensive report would be submitted with the consultation of the private schools organizations representatives so that security arrangements for the private schools could be made more effective.

All Pakistan Private Schools Welfare Association President Syed Zulqarnain Shah was of the view that police was forcibly closing down private educational institutions and they were at loss. He said police had tried to forcibly trespass into the schools premises in Cantonment and Green Town areas and also misbehaved with the female staff.

The private schools management is in a state of fear in this situation and the Punjab government should attempt to improve the security through concerned EDO Education and Secretary Education so that public should not be harassed by the uneducated police officials.

He further said most of the private schools were working in rented buildings and the owners were unable to immediately raise the boundary walls up to 8 feet because of financial constraints.

According to him, the Punjab government should bail out the private schools management by releasing special funds for raising the boundary walls as promotion of education and protection of citizens was a collective responsibility of the government and the society.

In order to regulate the affairs of private sector educational institutions, there is a demand of setting up of an independent regulatory body. Official circles believe that there is a dire need of the regulatory body to keep an eye on the faculty and the facilities provided to students and staff against the fee charged by the private sector.

The proposed body should register and affiliate the schools with examination boards for different exams and train the teachers of private schools. They also believe that the Punjab Schools Department alone cannot monitor the private schools, as it is already overloaded with almost 63,000 government schools in the province.

With hundreds of thousands of students and around 0.35 million teachers, the Punjab Schools Department is one of the largest public organizations of the country.

Support to the private schools is an important policy matrix of the Punjab government, as nobody could ignore their role in the spread of education and therefore the government is proactively working as a facilitator to enable the private schools to further the cause of knowledge in the province, they added.