Summer vacations are finally over. Educational institutions have reopened and now, between 1 and 3 pm, the streets of Lahore will be crowded with schoolchildren. Speaking of schoolchildren, I too happen to be a brother of school-going siblings. Being the elder one, it is my responsibility to pick up the kids of my house.

Few days ago, I went to my sister’s school to pick her up. The entrance gate was, as usual, crowded with parents and drivers. Most of them had school cards in their hands. Those who didn’t were not granted access to the school premises. The schoolguard even scolded some drivers who didn’t bother getting out of their vehicles.

While I stood there and watched all the hustle and bustle, I recalled the time when my father used to pick me up from school. It was almost the same, except that in those days, citizens of Lahore didn’t have fear for their children’s safety.

On our way to home, I told the nine-year-old that I wouldn’t be able to pick her up because of my university timings. I also told her that soon she would be going to school in a schoolvan or rickshaw. Without giving a second thought the little girl screamed, “I fear travelling in rickshaws and vans.”

I didn’t utter a word after hearing her. I knew her fear was justified … knew she was right. The spike in ‘children gone missing’ is alarming. Every now and then we hear reports of a child missing. Police later discover mutilated bodies packed in a sack.

I would also like to mention here that Punjab is not only engulfed in the fear of abductions. The provincial government has, in the past, been forced to close down educational institutions due to ‘security threats’. God knows what’s in store for us as in the days to come.

Given the current scenario, it is the equal responsibility of both the provincial government and the educational institutions to protect the school-going children. Institutions which do not have proper security facilities should be fined by the authorities concerned.

Instead of acquiring the services of van and rickshaw drivers, I believe, parents can ask the school administration to provide pick and drop facility. We all know the massive amounts these institutions make from school fee alone. It’s about time they provide pick and drop facility to those children who have to rely on vans and rickshaw drivers for transport.

Children must be protected. They are the future of this nation. They must get quality education. They must not share the fate of those brutally slaughtered in Peshawar. They do not want to sacrifice themselves. They want to live … so that they can tell their parents about what they did in school the other day.