With the shadow of the Peshawar Tragedy still looming large, the question of reopening schools after a government mandated, extended winter break has been a tricky one. On one hand, keeping the schools closed has been a massive detriment to education, as well as being a tool for perpetuating the terror-induced paralysis intended by the militants. On the other, another Army Public School style attack would be completely devastating, and no one wants to shoulder the blame of rushing through the security appraisal which may have led to inadequate protection. The fears become more acute considering Mullah Fazlullah has issued fresh threats of attacks of greater magnitude. In this situation one would expect a thoroughly articulated and foolproof plan which takes in most contingences.

The government has issued directions to beef up security at schools, without compliance to which, the institutions will not be allowed to open. It has instructed institutes to raise their boundary walls and top them with barbed wire, hire experienced security guards, and install close-circuit cameras, a government inspection team will survey the preparation and give the go ahead. Even on face value these steps seem woefully inadequate. The Army Public School in Peshawar was already fortified, situated in Peshawar Cantt, a high security zone, and were manned by adequate security; yet it was still breached. Higher walls and security guards are intuitive options, but it is easy to circumvent these precautions. The greatest problem with this plan remains that the state has shifted all the burden to the institutions themselves; private schools and institutions are required to hire guards, install cameras and build boundary walls all on their own expenses. There will be countless schools which cannot afford such measures and the state has no fund to help them. Furthermore, this blanket policy of requirements is severely counterproductive, different institutes, because of their size, student strength or course choices, have different educational structures. Yet all are required to comply to the same standards. Small kindergartens opened in houses, evening cram schools, colloquially known as ‘academies’,  rural government schools and sprawling universities with several campuses have the same requirements to fill. Higher walls, CCTV, and guards are overkill for a kindergarten, yet completely inadequate for a university.

The state needs to take ownership and divert funds to the exercise, to ensure all institutes can ramp up security. Furthermore, instead of having a one-size-fits-all policy, it should give directions based on strategic value and perceived threats. Most importantly, the state’s focus should be on tackling this problem on their own through proper policing and intelligence gathering, not by shifting the burden to concerned institutions.