Schools at risk

Updated December 17, 2015

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WHERE Pakistan is in general characterised by either the shortage of meaningful initiatives or disinterestedness in following through on them, the problems often seem to multiply exponentially.

Consider the issue of security for schools, which have been on the list of institutions under the militant-terrorist threat ever since the Army Public School massacre last year brought the unthinkable into the realm of the real.

In March, a partnership between the police and a mobile phone service provider made possible the initiation of an Emergency Alert System for educational institutions.

The idea was to provide school administrators/employees with registered handsets through which, at the click of a button, any perceived risk could be communicated immediately to police officers trained and deputed to take matters from there.

The project was launched in Punjab and Karachi. In the former, the initiative has been expanded gradually to cover every district. In Karachi, though, while the initial push was made — in the first six months the police registered over 4,000 schools and deputed 200 officers to receive panic alerts — the situation now is that the system has been lying idle for three months. As reported on Wednesday, the continued non-payment of dues has led to SIMs being blocked.

With the country observing this week the death anniversary of APS students and staff, the timing of this disclosure could not be more heartbreakingly poignant. What more could be needed to make the authorities in Karachi prioritise security for educational institutions and the safety of our children?

It is this sort of disinterestedness that communicates the idea to the people that state authority is not just incapable, it is callous to boot. Here, the issue is grave and the danger frighteningly real; just a day before the Dec 16 anniversary, the security establishment had put out a terror threat warning for the city’s educational institutions.

It is downright shocking that a system that has the potential to save lives has been so carelessly flung by the wayside.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2015