Islamabad - Like other parts of the country, educational institutions reopened in the federal capital on Monday amidst insufficient security measures.
About 422 government-run schools and colleges in Islamabad Capital Territory were shut down in the backdrop of Peshawar school attack. Later winter vacations were extended due to security threats to schools. Some schools are still closed.
Attendance remained thin on the first day. Besides, buzzing rumours about throwing of dresses for dead person inscribed with threats inside various colleges perturbed the administrations, parents and students. But officials denied any truth in such gossips.
“We heard on Saturday that someone has thrown a dress for dead person in Islamabad Postgraduate Girls College, G-10/4, then in G-10/2. But when we checked from the administration they did not complain anything like this. And today we heard the same thing about Islamabad College for Girls (ICG) F-6/2 but its administration also refuted such reports,” maintained a senior official at Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) under which all schools and colleges operate.
The officials claim that all the possible measures have been taken but teachers and students seem to be unsatisfied with the steps. Security guards have been hired, walls have been raised and security alert system has been installed in some educational institutions.
Heads of educational institutions and teachers have been briefed about the security alert system installed in their cellphones which can be used in case of emergency situations.
The institutions have also been asked to purchase a device that will be connected to the systems at offices of law enforcement agencies and pressing a buzzer will alert the authorities of nearby police stations within seconds.
“All the hype of making foolproof security seems befooling us in the face,” remarked a lecturer.
The security measures including hiring of security guards, purchase of metal dictators, raising walls and installation of CCTV cameras and barbed wires and cutting of jungle around some institutes have put extra financial burden on colleges.
According to information, colleges have hired security guards from their own funds but without any security clearance.
All the guards have been hired from a Rawalpindi based company Sigma. “The guards were hired at the eleventh hour when the institutions were about to be opened on Monday so there is no security clearance and the guns they are holding seem to be used for bird hunting,” said a lecturer of Islamabad Model College for Boys, G-10/4, wishing anonymity. They had the little capacity to injure any highly trained terrorist, he added.
“When we entered our workplace today, there was neither wished-for high boundary wall with barbed wire nor security cameras are installed. Even a previously dysfunctional camera could not be repaired. However, we saw a big security light installed in the big lawn area and three weakling security guards of a Rawalpindi-based security company,” remarked a lecturer of a public sector college in sector I-8.
Another official of IMCG G-10/4 said that he saw guards standing in the college but they were without any security apparatus.
A large number of educational institutions have become a challenge for the law enforcers due to absence of proper boundary walls. Sihala Degree College is without boundary wall.
There is not a single sanctioned post of non-teaching staff including watchman to look after the college.
Professor Mehmood Ali Khokher, President Federal Government College Teachers Association (FGCTA) Local unit H-8 college, said, “The safety of the students should be our top priority because they are our next generation.”
A teacher of IMCG I-8/4 remarked, “A considerable number of schools are vulnerable and exposed to security threats but unfortunately a little has been done so far. Only the game of ‘look busy and do nothing’ is going on. A very few institutions have taken security measures in accordance with the instructions of police and FDE.”
Keeping in view the poor law and order situation, the government should provide proper security at least to educational institutions where thousands of students study and spend considerable time.
A teacher of H-8 college explained, “We have 3 watchmen to look after 37 acres premises.
Two watchmen perform their duties in the morning and one in the night. We have hired 2 security guards on a payment of 15,000 each per month. They have primitive guns which have not been operated by them since long.”
A teacher at IMCG I-8/3 said, “We neither have sanctioned budget nor sanctioned posts of teacher and non-teaching staff. We have only one watchman who performs duty around the clock. He is unarmed and is not skilled to handle arms. In such a situation we have been directed by FDE to hire security guards. We have arranged a security guard who will be paid through Students Fund.”
Though major colleges have taken some security measures, around 392 government schools are still waiting for the funds whose buildings are in tatters. According to officials, over 50 institutions have no boundary walls and the rest have less than 8 feet high walls.
Half of the posts of gatekeepers are lying vacant and those who are working are near retirement.
They will have to wait until supplementary grants are released by the finance ministry. It’s been decided to take donations from parents but it is also yet to be notified by the FDE.
Minister of State for Capital Administration & Development, Barrister Usman Ibraheem also paid a surprise visit of educational institutions and on unsatisfactory measures he directed the FDE to further improve the standard of security. He also advised the principals of schools and colleges to remain more vigilant and call staff meetings regarding security matters on daily basis.