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Public and private educational institutes are reopening across the province on Monday (today) amid security fears.

The Punjab government issued Standard Operating Procedures for educational institutes’ security and claims to have completed arrangements, while there are contradictory claims at grassroots level that no substantial security measures have been adopted except for raising walls, installing razor wires and CCTV cameras.

“These measures cannot stop any terrorist, as the APS had much more security than this,” said a parent and added he would not be sending his children to school and see how the day would go.

A PML-N leader, meanwhile, confided that the government responded in the wake of attack and took measures to avoid criticism that it did not do anything in case there was a terrorist attack in Lahore. He also said sometimes extraordinary measures prevented students from evacuating institutes in case of a mishap.

“Higher walls may become a hurdle in evacuating students and teachers in case of an emergency,” he added.

On the other hand, parents of students studying in public schools said no proper security measures had been taken. A teachers union representative said Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood had himself admitted that there were around 2,700 public schools without boundary walls. The minister said it would take around three months to raise these walls.

Citing examples of the developed world, senior academics say the government should have invested in improving intelligence and tracking terrorists and foiling planned attacks.

“Collecting CCTV footages after the attack and tracking suicide bombers will continue to be seen as the government’s failure in protecting lives and properties of the masses,” a university vice chancellor said. He also expressed concern over some intelligence officials visiting varsities to check security measures as well as newly purchased weapons but not displaying their identities. Usage of latest weapons is also a matter of concern for universities, he lamented.

Meanwhile, the Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) has presented 10 recommendations to the government for security of students and schools, including avoiding setting up of examination centres in the morning as well as holding any ceremonies for at least three months.

PTU President Sajjad Akbar Kazmi says the National Volunteer Force should also be assigned duties to guard public schools. He stressed that the youth force at union council level should be made functional at the earliest as well as medical first aid box and stretchers arranged.

The union recommended the schools get verified the identities of workers in canteens. Similarly, vendors outside schools should be monitored or banned altogether. The union also recommended that all encroachments alongside schools be removed.

The Technical Education and Vocational Training Authority (Tevta) plans to recruit 1,042 teachers in BPS-14 to 17 to meet shortage in its institutes across Punjab.

Tevta Chairman Irfan Qaiser Sheikh says the recruitment policy is based on distribution of 100 marks: 65 for educational qualification, 10 higher education, 20 general test conducted by the National Testing Service (NTS) and five interview.

He hopes new inductees will raise the standard of technical education and vocational training system in Tevta institutes besides reducing unemployment across the province.

Tevta Chief Operating Officer Jawad Ahmed Qureshi says recruitment test will be held at all districts headquarters, tehsils and other places indicated subject to the number of candidates. He says applications will be submitted directly to the NTS headquarters in Islamabad on the prescribed form.

Faculty members and students of Punjab University Sheikh Zayed Islamic Centre (SZIC) have earned laurels in the National Seerat Conference 2015 held in Islamabad.

Associate professors Dr Muhammad Abdullah and Dr Samina Sadia won first positions in the male and female categories for their articles on seerat.

MPhil scholar Hafiz Nadeem and visiting lecturer Sayyeda Sadia won second and third positions in male and female categories, respectively.

After the governor’s assent, the Punjab Higher Education Commission (PHEC) Act has been promulgated to strengthen and meet the growing needs of higher education, including college education, in the province.

A PHEC spokesman says the commission would be a supportive and facilitative body for strengthening higher education in the province and its purview would start after the intermediate programme.

As per its prescribed 26 functions, the commission has been authorised to formulate guidelines under which public and private institutions may be opened and operated in the province, monitor and evaluate performance of institutes, undertake various faculty development programmes and prepare plans for development of higher education and take measures, including allocation of funds for award of fellowships, scholarships, travel and research grants.

The commission chairman shall be the chief executive officer who will be responsible for all administrative, financial and academic functions of the commission. – mansoormalik173@hotmail.com

Published in Dawn January 12th , 2014

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