PESHAWAR: The heads of government schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa feel they are being harassed and insulted in the wake of registration of FIRs by police against them for not following the standing operating procedures concerning security arrangements at schools, according to sources.

“It is insulting to register an FIR against a headmaster for none of his crime,” said one of the headmasters while talking to Dawn. Regarding the SOPs’ implementation, he said that the education department had not released funds to schools for adopting the security measures.

The SOPs framed by the government for schools after the militant attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, in December 2014 include construction of the boundary walls, raising height of the existing walls to 10 feet and fixing barbed wire on them. The SOPs also include deployment of security guards, installation of CCTV cameras, construction of watchtowers, placing barriers in front of the school gate, etc.

Claim education dept has not released funds for security purpose

Chief Minister Pervez Khattak and Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Mohammad Atif Khan have been claiming to have released Rs10 billion under the school improvement programme launched soon after the APS attack.

However, a senior official in the education department said that this amount (Rs10 billion) was for the construction of boundary walls, additional classrooms and lavatories and provision of electrification and drinking water. He said that of the several components of SOPs, only boundary wall was among the school improvement programme and walls of over 80,000 schools had been constructed.

Senior officials at the helm of affairs have verbally directed the headmasters of the 28,000 government schools to buy CCTV cameras, barbed wire and guns from the school fund provided by the government for the petty repairs of the classrooms and class consumable items.

The schools having fund for the repairs and class consumable items have implemented the SOPs, while those headmasters who had already utilised that fund on petty repairs prior to the verbal directives couldn’t implement the SOPs, the sources said. Such headmasters now have been facing registration of FIRs as the education department has not released funds specifically for implementation of the SOPs.

“The headmasters having no funds can only face embarrassment as neither the education department has any intention to release funds immediately nor the police department would allow them to operate schools without SOPs,” said a headmaster of the government school.

Police have been registering FIRs against the headmasters under The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sensitive and Vulnerable Establishments and Places (Security) Act, 2015.

The law defines vulnerable establishment and places as hospitals, banks, money changers, financial institutions, firms, companies, industrial units, educational institutions, public parks, private clinics, wedding halls, petrol and CNG stations, jewellery shops, hotels, entertainment centers, public transport terminals, special bazaars, commercial streets, shops or shopping arcades, or any other place as government may notify.

Under this act, the state has virtually shifted its responsibility of protecting life and properties of the citizens to the above institutions, said an expert on law. “Why the government is collecting taxes from the citizens when it cannot provide them security,” he asked.

“I will not go to the court for bail, let the police arrest me,” a headmaster told Dawn after registration of an FIR against him.

Commenting on the issue, Schools Officers Association’s general secretary Samiullah Khalil said that the headmasters were worried at the registration of FIRs. On the pretext of SOPs, police want to shift the security responsibility to the headmasters, he said.

Mr Khalil said that it was the responsibility of the high-ups of the education department to take up this issue with the chief minister as in such a situation the headmasters and teachers would not be able to focus on their basic job of imparting education in their respective schools.

“The government should clarify whether we are for teaching or providing security to the children,” he said.

Published in Dawn, January 30th, 2016