Imagine a school in which teachers enter classrooms carrying papers, books and an AK-47 assault rifle.

Pakistan Flag
Pakistan Flag

Such a dystopian scene might soon be reality in Pakistan’s north-western Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, where the government last week announced a plan to arm teachers to combat Taliban militants.

Last month rebels killed at least 136 students in an attack against an army-run school in the provincial capital Peshawar, causing deep panic by authorities over the security of more than 35,000 schools in the militancy-plagued province.

“The idea is to enable teachers to engage the attackers until help arrives,” said provincial information minister Mushtaq Ghani.

According to the Interior Ministry, the Taliban have killed more than 50,000 people in the past decade, and there are fears of more attacks against soft targets like schools after the country’s armed forces intensified operations following the Peshawar incident.

But the idea of “armed teachers” has shocked both the teaching community and wider civil society.

A convention this week by an association representing more than 78,000 male and female teachers in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province rejected the move.

Dil Muhammad, a primary school teacher in the north-western town of Mansehra, said it was the government’s responsibility to provide security to students and teachers.

“It is wrong to ask teachers to carry firearms into school. The job of teachers is to teach and not to fight the militants,” he said.

“If implemented, it would create more violence in the society,” said Zehra Arshad of the Pakistan Coalition for Education, a non-profit organization.

Psychologist Muhammad Amjad said displaying weapons in classrooms would have a negative impact on learning and the overall environment.

“The government in Pakistan has banned corporal punishment in schools, and now authorities should avoid steps that promote the use of symbols of violence,” he said.

Instead of arming teachers, some say, the government should improve infrastructure by building protective walls.

“At least 4,763 schools are without a periphery wall, and the government should provide funds for it,” said Malik Khalid, a provincial teachers’ representative.

Facing mounting criticism, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government might reconsider the idea of arming the teachers with lethal weapons.

So far, no decision has been made on the issuing of arms to the teachers, said Atif Khan, minister for elementary and secondary education.

“It was one of many ideas to deal with militants in the case of a sudden attack, but the government in principle is against teachers carrying guns with them to the schools,” he said.

GNA

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