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CBSE’s New Circular Reminds Schools the Necessity of Having an SOP

It was heartbreaking! The terrorist attack on the Pakistani school in Peshawar on 16th December 2014 was one of the most gruesome attacks on mankind in recent history. World terrorism hit a new low on this day. The lives of 145 of which 132 were students, were lost in the massacre.

In the wake of the Peshawar school attack, CBSE on Friday issued a circular to all its affiliated schools reminding them of the necessity of having a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in place. These guide the school management in dealing with kidnappings, armed intrusion and hostage situations and dealing with armed explosives. It also conducts mock drills to enable the students and faculty to deal with real life situations. Board’s secretary Joseph Emmanuel wrote to schools saying the Peshawar school attack was ‘an eye opener for all of us to have effective mechanism to prevent such incidents in our institutions.

With today’s real time media and abundance of the Internet, most students have witnessed the events, as if it happened in their own backyard. They have seen brutality at its worst and they fear for their lives, most of them traumatized. “The school for a child is his second home and when schools are targeted by terrorists, children are affected more,” said Pooja Bakshi, a child psychologist.

The CBSE had first stressed on the need for an SOP in its circular on April 5, 2010, with guidelines provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA). The MHA also condemned the attack, saying it was an attempt by the terrorist to attain widespread media and public attention. In addition, most schools across the country have also made ID cards compulsory for visitors.

Features of SOP

  • Each school should have concrete boundary wall, with 3 to 4 gates and each gate manned by at least 3 guards, on a 24-hour basis.
  • A nodal officer may be nominated to look after security arrangement in the school.
  • A telephone connection should be provided at the main gate of the School so that the guards can inform the police in case of any emergency without waiting for informing the nodal officer or the principal.
  • There should be proper illumination along the perimeter so that nobody can jump over the wall into the school in the night for any nefarious activity.
  • Concertina wire may be fixed on the iron grills above the boundary wall to deter any one from jumping over the wall.
  • Installation of CCTV systems all along the boundary as well as some additional locations inside the premises, to monitor the movement of any suspicious person, with recording facilities for the last three days, at least.

In any case, the casualty rate can be minimal only with appropriate responsiveness to situations. Many a times, we see that the reason for a high casualty rate to be the lack of a quick response. As part of the SOP, even the police and other counter terrorism outfits should be given mock test, to improve responsiveness.

So, how safe are we Indians from an attack of this magnitude? How prepared are we? Can we relax at our homes while our children attend schools in India, which are mostly incapable of providing the basic amenities for its students? Even as the whole world mourns on these recent events, we ourselves need to think if we are safe. Remember that the school in Pakistan was an army school.

In the past decade, India was not short of terrorist attacks. Yet, we have continuously failed to strengthen our internal security. It is a known fact that the security systems in India were up a notch, post 26/11. Many CCTV cameras were installed and monitoring stations were established. But we have failed to keep up the heat. Most of the CCTV cameras installed have not yet become functional. Even the security at railway stations has become a mere formality and it has become highly inefficient.

‘HOPE’ that we wouldn’t fall victim to such attacks, is what will help us lead a life of peace. But, it is awareness and preparation that will help us gather the strength and courage to face them. The nation has to open its eyes and stop being complacent, for the future of this country and its children depend on the actions we take today.

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