KARACHI: Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan launched at Governor House on Friday a province-wide school safety programme, envisaged by Pakistan Red Crescent (PRC) and supported by the Norwegian Red Cross.

Dr Ibad lamented security threats to schools and said that children’s safety was extremely important. “By safeguarding the children we are safeguarding our next generation. It’s unfortunate to see the once safer and peaceful environment of our educational institutions now facing threats,” he said.

He said the programme was a good initiative taken by the Red Crescent in Sindh, which had vast experience in the field of emergency response and disaster management across the world.

“I am confident that Sindh Red Crescent is fully capable of providing knowledge and support to educational institutions and preparing them for security challenges,” he said.

The governor urged parents and school managements to come forward and extend full support to the Red Crescent and asked philanthropists to donate generously for the cause.

He asked Red Crescent to gradually extend the scope of the programme to include other important sectors as well like universities, public places and government institutions.

Dr Ibad lauded the role of Rangers, police and other security agencies in maintaining law and order in the city and province at large.

He announced that a safety helpline for the province would soon be introduced.

“We have helpline service 1299 in Karachi commissioner office but now we will launch 1122 service in the province soon with the support of Red Crescent.”

He asked schools’ managements to ensure safety and security in their premises. Besides, he said, the government would also make appropriate laws.

Senior Sindh Minister for Education, Nisar Khuhro, said that schools, madressahs, mosques, imambargahs and other religious places were being targeted by militants, “but we have faced all this with endurance and will respond to them courageously in future as well”.

He said there were about 700 government school buildings in Karachi and asked the Red Crescent to conduct a survey of the schools and let the education department know about their security requirements.

“We want to secure our children,” he said, requesting Red Crescent to provide security guidelines.

Chairperson PRC-Sindh, Farzanah Naek, said the school safety programme did not just focus on security but it was aimed at providing students and teachers the required skills to respond effectively in the event of when a crisis.

She said the programme worked towards engaging community in increasing their resilience to any natural or manmade disaster through school-based risk reduction.

Ms Naek said Red Crescent had already imparted necessary knowledge and skills to 23 schools of Karachi.

Secretary general of PRC-National Headquarters, Dr Rizwan Naseer said the Red Crescent was extending the programme across the country.

Regional head of Norwegian Red Cross, Astride Sletten read out the message of ambassador of Norway to Pakistan, Tore Nedreb, which said the safety of schoolchildren was a priority of Norwegian government and the best way of reducing the risk to vulnerable communities was to invest in risk reduction activities to ensure that students, teachers and others were prepared for disasters.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2016