Private schools closure due to security dilemma

Security dilemma keeps schools closed
Islamabad, Oct 30: Put in a dilemma by the local authorities' 'arrange your own security or close' order, several private schools and institutes in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi have opted for the latter at least for the time being.

It is a tall order. Even the big names in the commercialised education sector say it is a costly affair to install walk-through gates, CCTV surveillance system and deploy armed guards at their premises to protect their students.

Private schools with low budgets find themselves in bigger quandary.

It has been learnt that the management of the Froebel's School System has closed its schools until Eidul Azha holidays that fall in November.

Beaconhouse and City schools were to open on Thursday but were closed until Sunday after their managements received orders from the Islamabad administration to arrange the prescribed security measures.

Only the government-run schools and colleges are open, apparently because, unlike the private institutions, the government cannot abdicate its duty to protect its own institutions.

An official press release issued on Thursday said the Islamabad administration and police have held a series of meetings with school managements since October 27 "to guide them on taking effective security measures" to protect their students, staff and buildings against terrorist attacks.

Educational institutions have been feeling insecure since military-run schools were closed temporarily after the audacious terrorist attack on the Army GHQ in Rawalpindi on October 10.

Their worst fears became a reality ten days later when terrorists launched two attacks on the International Islamic University in Islamabad, targeting its girl students in particular. That caused all educational institutes schools, colleges, universities across the country to close temporarily.

Institutes in Islamabad and Rawalpindi were struggling to reopen this week when the authorities' strange order to them to arrange their own security forced them to keep their doors shut on the thousands upon thousands of students.

An official of the Private Schools Association of Islamabad who attended Thursday's meeting with the local administration said that most of its member schools were reluctant to resume classes as they were unable to meet the security standards set by the administration and police, and so felt vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Its guidelines, prepared by the special branch of police, wish schools "to function freely" but adhere strictly to the security standards. One designated faculty member should keep liaison with the local police on security matters.

These guidelines include verification of security guards deployed at schools, stickers for school vehicles and office cards for the employees. It also advises that school boundary walls be minimum eight feet high.

Arms licences were promised to all owners of schools for security purpose. Schools concentrated in one area should jointly arrange security. Walk through gates will be mandatory for schools where student enrolment is over 1,000. Other schools will place scanners at entry points. The schools will also install CCTV cameras.

These security arrangements would be monitored by area police officer and magistrates.

A private school liaison committee at district level has also been set up, headed by the ADC(G)ICT. Its members are SP investigation, SDPO rural, DSP special branch, DSP Women, Faisal Mushtaq Root School, Muhammad Akram Beaconhouse, Muhammad Anwar General Secretary Private School Associations urban area, and Chaudhry Ilyas Mehrban, Chairman Private School Associations rural area.

"The cost of walk-through gates ranges between Rs25,000 to Rs300,000, without tax and duties. It is impossible for most schools' administrations to bear such high expense. Similarly they have to bear additional expenses on hiring private security guards, purchase of their weapons and security cameras and raising boundary walls maximum eight feet," said the office-bearer of PSA. Dawn

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PEIRA facilitates 40,000 private school students
Islamabad: The Private Educational Institutions Regulatory Authority (PEIRA) has distributed free books and school bags among 40,000 students to give them financial assistance with opportunities to continue their studies.

PEIRA Chairman Atif Mahmood Kiani said the books were being provided to those students of private schools who pay their monthly fee up to Rs300 and follow government approved syllabus. Budget amounting of Rs8 million has been allocated for the authority under which the books were published from National Book Foundation, he said. "There is no possibility of any embezzlement in the allotted amount as the authority is not supposed to receive money directly," he told this agency here on Thursday.

"Books are published by National Book Foundation (NBF), which hands over these to PEIRA with a clearly printed instruction of 'not for sale' while the government directly pays printing expenses to NBF," he remarked. PEIRA is a government organisation working to ensure quality education in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) he said. "The authority is working on several fronts to help educational institutions of the private sector, giving them guidelines as per commitment to ensure quality education for achieving national prosperity," he added.

He said that next year the authority is suppose to receive a grant of Rs10 million, adding, "It would help us accommodate more students and provide books to a large number of pupils as compared to this year." Next year the books would be provided to students who deposit their monthly fee up to Rs350 but, these books are provided to schools, which follow government syllabus only, he informed.

It is generally observed that majority of private schools did not follow government syllabus in junior classes so the authority has decided that it would provide only schools bags to students of those schools in junior classes and students above class four would receive books from the authority. The news

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IIUI denied campus closure, terror threats
Islamabad: The International Islamic University, Islamabad (IIUI), has denied closing its campus and said it had received no terror threats. IIUI President Dr Anwaar Hussain Siddiqui told reporters on Thursday that the university had been functioning normally since its opening on October 26 (Monday). "All academic activities are going on peacefully.

Rumours of any threats to the university or its closure are baseless and misleading," he said. Siddiqui said apparently, a campaign had been begun by the 'terrorists' supporters' to terrify the IIUI students, teachers and staff. "Miscreants are misusing modern technology and Internet to spread false news and scary stories," he said. He said extraordinary measures had been taken for the safety of the university and its students and staff members on campus and in hostels. The IIUI president urged students and their parents to ignore rumours. Daily times

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