ISLAMABAD: All government and private schools in Rawalpindi will be shut on Wednesday, while a number of private schools in the capital are also expected to be shuttered, following the confusion caused by a last-minute Punjab government decision to close all schools in the province.
The notification, which had not reached several institutions or the district administration even by Tuesday night, cited extremely cold weather as the reason for the schools’ closure and directed them to remain closed for the rest of the week.
But the confusion caused by this order also spilled over into Islamabad, where a number of private schools remained shut on Tuesday, while others sent students home and closed early.
There was also no certainty on why the schools were being asked to shut down, but most parents and school officials Dawn spoke to said they thought it had to do with security concerns.
The Punjab government announcement came late on Monday night and was reported by TV channels. However, most parents did not find out until the next morning, when their children were turned away at the gate.
Consequently, most private schools in Rawalpindi were open on Tuesday and maintained they had not received any official orders to close down. However, government and private colleges and universities remained open.
Director Colleges Humayun Iqbal told Dawn that institutions would have closed down if they had received formal directions from the provincial government to this effect.
Executive District Officer (EDO) Education Qazi Zahoorul Haq said he was not aware of any formal directions, issued by the provincial government, to close down the schools. He explained that most schools had shut after seeing the announcement on TV, adding that an official letter to this effect was yet to be received.
Last-minute Punjab govt notification still not circulated in garrison city; CADD minister says no official closure in Islamabad
Malik Abrar, president of the All Pakistan Private Schools Management Association Rawalpindi, criticised the way the provincial government made the announcement.
“All the schools under the federal government remained open and only those under the provincial government or private schools were closed. Do the students of these schools feel the cold more than those in schools that remained open,” he asked
Saying that these holidays will only waste the students’ precious time, he accused the provincial government of taking decisions without consulting all stakeholders first.
He said the Punjab government’s policies for the protection of schools were inadequate. “The government deploys all of the police to protect its leaders, but when it comes to securing educational institutions, all they want is for schools to install walkthrough gates and acquire expensive gadgets.”
Late on Tuesday night, Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) Tariq Fazal Chaudhry issued a statement, saying that all public schools in the federal capital will be open on Wednesday.
The statement was issued in the backdrop of the confusion caused by the decision of schools such as Beaconhouse, Frobel’s and the Islamabad Convent to remain closed in the wake of the Punjab government attack, despite there being no such official directive for institutions in the capital.
Sources said that while Headstart did not shut down initially, it decided to close when it was learned that other schools were also sending pupils home. Many private schools have now extended their holidays until Jan 31.
In many cases, however, the message could not be communicated to parents in time, who brought their children to school as usual only to be turned away at the gate.
But there was no such confusion in the 422 government-run educational institutions, where classes were held as per routine. “Our institutions will remain open,” said Federal Directorate of Education Director General Dr Moinuddin Wani.
“It was surprising, because schools usually notify us about closures in a timely manner. But this time, there was no such notification and even the staff at the gate was not clear about the reasons for the closure,” said Syed Sajjad, whose children study at Frobel’s.
One schools, which opened for a while on Tuesday, informed students’ parents in an email that the police had come by the school around 8:00am and explained that they were checking all the schools, recommending they stay shut.
“A little later on, we started receiving more information about an important event that may have happened last night and might be the cause of much more serious terrorist threats and possible vengeance attacks. We also received a security alert about educational institutions,” the email stated, added that after receiving this information, the school was closed.
The Islamabad Convent School also announced holidays until Jan 31 in a statement posted on its website. However, they claimed that the step was being taken due to cold weather.
Nasir Kasuri of the Beaconhouse School System told Dawn that their schools were closed due to the confusion on Monday. “The Punjab government order came very late on Monday night and we were not clear whether this directive is for Punjab only or other schools as well. Due to this confusion, Beaconhouse remained closed on Tuesday as well.”
“In Punjab, all our schools will remain closed as per the government directive. As far as Islamabad is concerned, I think the school should remain open, he said, without specifying whether the school would, in fact, remain open on Wednesday or not.
Roots Millennium Schools’ media adviser Abid Younis told Dawn that all branches of the school would remain open.
When contacted, Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (Peira) Member Imtiaz Qureshi said that there were no official holidays in Islamabad. “We never issued any directive to private schools, but some of them are observing holidays on their own,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2016