After a Taliban massacre at a school left almost 150 people dead last December, local government officials in Pakistan’s Peshawar Province are allowing teachers to carry licensed weapons on school grounds.
Firearms training workshops have begun for teachers over the past two weeks, conducted by the provincial government. Officials hope that by doing so, teachers could have the ability to at least slow down an attacker until police arrive. About 20 female teachers, most of whom have never held a gun before, have already received the training.
Asked by The Associated Press whether she is confident enough to kill a terrorist at her school, 37-year-old teacher Shabnam Tabinda said, “Yes. Whoever kills innocents, God willing, I will shoot them.”
Having been a teacher for the last 15 years, Abdul Saeed believes that the weapons bring reassurance to students, who are still terrified after the recent terrorist attack.
“They would look to the door every time they heard a sound. Now when they see me wearing a gun, they need not worry and can focus on the task at hand, which is to educate themselves,” Saeed says.
Last month the government pledged to spend an additional $69 million on security for its government-run schools. And now, barbed wire, surveillance cameras and even snipers are an everyday occurrence in schools in the area. Private schools are being asked to set up security guards and metal detectors, writes Sophia Saifi for CNN.
While not much is being said by school officials concerning any threats they may have received, stories are beginning to circulate about empty coffins being sent to principals in anticipation of upcoming attacks.
KPK information minister Mushtaq Ghani does not believe that the additional security funding will be enough to protect the 35,000 government-run schools in the area, and so teachers are being allowed to keep guns at school.
Not everyone agrees with the decision. Primary school teacher Umar Daraz, a member of Peshawar’s Primary Teacher Association for more than 20 years, was shocked to hear the news.
“Why would you glorify guns?” he asks. “If teachers take guns into classroom it glorifies this deadly weapon in the eyes of children, and in the future it could inspire them to seek out guns, misuse them and cause more tragedies to take place. Teachers are meant to teach.”
Saeed responds to those critics by saying that the guns are necessary for these “extraordinary times.”
“After what I have seen I refuse to be helpless and unarmed if anyone comes in to attack my students the way [the militants] did in December. We were once warriors of the chalk and the blackboard. Now we must be soldiers at war and fight for the cause of education and a brighter future for our children.”