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PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Pakistan is allowing teachers to carry guns in school after a recent school massacre but the move has triggered anger and alarm from educators and parents in the northwest of the country.
"Our job is teaching, not carrying a gun," said Malik Khalid Khan, a head schoolteacher Peshawar and president of teachers' union in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The government closed educational institutions across the country for 26 days after the militant siege of the Army Public School (APS). When they reopened on January 12, officials made it mandatory for the province’s nearly 40,000 schools to install CCTV cameras, hire private security guards and raise the height of schools' boundary walls, saying there simply weren’t enough police to keep the region’s kids and teachers safe.
“[Teachers carrying weapons] is the only available option to ensure security of the students and teachers in schools," Khyber Pakhtunkhwa education minister Atif Khan said, adding that the decision was a result of teachers’ demands. “The teachers are worried about their and their students' security."
But opponents to new rule say it will only promote violence in a society that has borne the brunt of militancy and religious extremism.
"The government has already put our security at risk by engaging the schoolteachers in polio-eradication program and now wanted us to become soldiers,” said Khan, the head teacher. “This isn't acceptable to us."
Father-of-four Mohammad Sabir Ahmad agrees.
"Yesterday I was listening to my daughters before leaving for the school,” said the Peshawar resident. “The elder was telling her younger sister to immediately escape and never come for her search if the school is attacked by the Taliban."
He added: "If our children see their teachers teaching them while carrying a weapon, what will be their future?"