LAHORE - Schoolchildren are happy but parents are worried as the government is struggling to develop a security strategy to save kids at classrooms.

Security guards, no matter trained or untrained, are in high demand in the provincial metropolis both for the government-run and private schools. National newspapers are printing full-page job advertisements for security guards.

The Punjab government on Monday announced that “all government and private schools will remain closed from 26th of January to 31st.” The week-long and abrupt holidays triggered security concerns across the province.

According to officials, schools are closed because of militant threats. However, provincial minister for education Rana Mashood insists the decision was taken to protect children from “severe wave of cold” that gripped the Punjab province last week.

Private guards are being hired at Rs12000 per month for at least 12-hour duty at schools. The government has made it mandatory for private schools to deploy at least two security guards at the entrance for security purpose.

An administrator of a private school told The Nation that they were struggling to find trained guards for the last couple of days but to no avail. “The security guards demand salaries higher that Rs15000 per month. It’s an additional burden on the schools”.

Another in-charge of an English medium school said the parents are worried about the safety of their kids at the schools.

There are thousands of private and government-run schools in the city and it means that the metropolis needs thousands of guards to protect children, teachers, and staff.

On the directions of Lahore DIG (Operations) Dr Haider Ashraf, city police are training private security guards at the Qila Gujjar Singh Police Lines. The guard’s employment, training, and verification are part of the initiatives being taken to enhance security at the educational institutions.

A city police spokesman last night said the Lahore police provided firearm training to thousands of security guards during the previous year. “This exercise was launched in consultation with the management of schools. Surely, it will help schools deploy trained guards after proper verification at the institutions,” the spokesman said.

Many schools are yet to finalize the security arrangements as per the prescribed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the Punjab province. The private schools management is pressing the government to provide them police security but they are told by the authorities to hire private guards.

It was learnt that heavy police contingents would be deployed around the elite public schools in Lahore on the expected reopening of the educational institutions on Monday.

The Quick Response Force (QRF) – a well-trained wing of the Punjab police – has been tasked to provide security cover to the educational institutions. “The (QRF) commandoes will remain on their toes during the schools’ timing. In case of any untoward incident, they will respond as quickly as possible,” a police officer said.

Similarly, well-equipped policemen riding on gun-fitted vehicles would patrol around the leading educational institutions to keep a vigilant eye on the activities of the miscreants. More than 348 schools located in Lahore are declared sensitive and at least 23 are declared as most sensitive, official sources said.

A provincial government official said schools would reopen across the Punjab province on Monday. “We will take strict legal action against the schools which failed to adopt security measures as per the SOP,” he said.

According to the SOP, the height of the schools boundary walls must be 8-feet with two feet high barbed wires, CCTV cameras, and also maintaining the complete record of the schools’ workers, employees etc.

The police are reviewing the security arrangements at the schools, which are divided into three categories – A+, A, B for security purposes. The management of all the private and public schools is bound to take security measurers as per the SOP. Complete boundary walls are made mandatory for every school in addition to metal detectors, security guards, security barriers, walkthrough gates, and evacuation points.

Schools were shut across the province following the terror assault on a university in Charsadda early this month. Over 20 young students were shot and killed and several others wounds as militants raided the leading university in Khyber-PK province.