With increased incidents of violence being reported across institutions of education, lack of a proper security protocol at government schools in the city is a cause for concern. Absence of well-trained security guards, easily scalable boundary walls and lack of an effective security protocol make the city schools prone to security threats.
In the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Army Public School, Peshawar, in December 2014, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) had issued a standard operating procedure (SOP) for dealing with terrorist attacks on schools. In the SOP, dated December 19, 2014, the MHRD had listed preventive measures that can be adopted at schools in order to ensure complete safety of its students and teachers. These measures include construction of boundary walls around the school premises, deployment of at least three security guards at schools on a 24-hour basis and proper illumination across the school perimeter.
As suggested by the MHRD, for ensuring safety, schools should also fix concertina wire on the iron grills on the school boundary walls to avoid the possibility of anyone jumping across the walls. At several government schools in the city, the boundary walls lie broken or are easily scalable, thus possibly putting the life of teachers and students at risk. At Government Primary School, Railway Colony; Government Model School, Sector 20; Government Primary School, Sector 26; and Government Middle School, Raipur Kalan, the boundary walls are easily scalable.
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In addition to this, at several schools in the city like Government Model Senior Secondary School, Sector 37-B and Government Model High School, Sector 36-D, the school buildings are poorly constructed, and are thus prone to higher security threats. The majority of the government schools in the city also have only one entry gate.
Swarn Singh Kamboj, president of UT Cadre Educational Employees’ Union, points out that there is a lack of awareness about safety measures amongst school teachers and students in the city. “No mock drills are conducted in any of the government schools, which is why, in the event of any mishappening, the students and teachers will not be prepared to handle it.”
“With increasing incidents of terrorism across the world and regions of Punjab especially, it is very crucial to ensure that students and teachers feel safe inside school premises. As of today, there is complete negligence on part of the UT Administration in implementing safety protocol in city government schools,” a teacher from a city government school told Chandigarh Newsline.
Government schools in the city do not have trained security guards, and there is also an absence of surveillance cameras at several schools. The guidelines also state that a visual anti-sabotage of the entire school must be conducted by the school security staff on a daily basis before the arrival of students in the morning.
Officials from the UT Education Department, however, assert that efforts are underway to improve the security mechanism at schools. “Security of the students and teachers is definitely our priority. Surveillance cameras have been installed at almost all government schools, and we are in the process of installing more of these cameras. One security guard is present in all schools at all times. As far as the issue of constructing barbed fences is concerned, that will be taken up by the Engineering Department,” said District Education Officer Viney Sood. However, no measures have yet been initiated to deploy trained security guards or to enforce a security protocol in city government schools.
“There isn’t even a proper check conducted on the people who visit government schools. Anyone can enter the school premises and pose a security threat. In the recent past, we all have witnessed how absence of security measures resulted in firing within the Panjab University campus. Who can say the same won’t happen in my child’s school on some unfortunate day? There is an urgent need for better security arrangements in the city schools,” said Seema Sharma, parent of a student studying at GMSSS-16.