THE latest announcements on the subject of school security display a breathtaking lack of sagacity. On Monday, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh governments disclosed further measures they intend to take in order to beef up security at educational institutions in the wake of last month’s devastating attack on Peshawar’s Army Public School.
It seems that the KP government has decided to allow employees of all educational institutions to carry licensed arms on the premises.
According to the provincial information minister, Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani, the move will allow teachers and other staff members to engage the attackers for the “initial five to 10 minutes” before law-enforcement personnel reach the spot.
On the other hand, in Sindh a high-level security review meeting resolved to ban the use of mobile phones in all educational institutions during teaching hours since the devices afford room for “unchecked communication”.
The latter piece of absurdity can perhaps be dismissed not just because mobile phones are now ubiquitous and indispensable, but also because such a decision would be near impossible to implement. The question to be asked of the Sindh authorities is whether, by raising the issue of “unchecked communication”, they are implying that an attack on an educational institution may involve inside help. And if that is the case, where is the effort to identify and de-radicalise such individuals?
The move in KP, however, deserves outright castigation. Leave aside the folly of expecting the employees of educational institutions to act as the first line of defence in case of an attack.
Leave aside even the fact that weapons and the violence that they lead to are anathema to places of learning. Consider simply the numerous scenarios in which such a move could go horribly wrong — weapons in the hands of untrained and apprehensive chowkidars; guns being misued or misappropriated; or, terrifying, a potential assailant having easy access to the weapons.
Consider just the fact that the answer to solving the conundrum of a heavily weaponised and violent society does not lie in adding more guns to the mix. No doubt, it is important to boost security at our schools, but this is a deeply irresponsible way to go about it.
Taken together, these decisions run the gamut between idiocy and serious hazard. If this is the best that the two provinces can do in the face of an implacable enemy, there is much to worry about.
Published in Dawn January 14th , 2015