Back in 2010, the vivid memory of terrorist and earthquake drills happening in our schools shook our confidence to a magnitude many couldn’t explain at that time. Indulged in our young carelessness, we took these drills as a moment to escape from our classes and chit-chat with our friends from other sections. At that point in life, we had no idea regarding the seriousness of the unfortunate events happening around us. We were told to instantly react to the security bells and sirens. What we weren’t told was how to manage ourselves confidently.
Pakistan is in the wrath of terrorism once again. The recent tragic events that took lives of many in different parts of Pakistan makes us conscious on how we do not want another APS and Bacha Khan University attack. In addressing this unfortunate matter, schools have started conducting drills again.
While the efforts of schools in keeping this forlorn as a priority continue to prevail, what we miss out is giving our children the confidence to manage such situations. Minahil Mehdi, a teacher from a private school explains it in an extremely transpiring way.
Few days ago, Minahil posted the following on her social media account:
“I was taking a class at this school today when there was a terrorist drill. The kids weren’t sure if it was a drill or a real attack. I said I’ll go check but they immediately closed the door, locked it and pushed the table against it too. They were so quick, so swift. So prepared. They then covered the windows with tables too. This class has young girls in it, nobody is particularly tall or seemingly strong but they quickly lifted the chairs and tables and covered the windows still. They switched off the lights and sat, pushed against the walls pretending to not live. They were so scared, they even held their breath.
After a few minutes the alarm rang again and it was finally over. Getting up one girl said ‘oh we were also supposed to wear our bags in the front covering our chest, so that if a bullet hit, it could be blocked’. Her friend listening, after a thought despondently said ‘but I don’t have enough books in my bag to protect me from an attack.’
Curious to know how these children and teachers actually feel, Parhlo talked to Minahil and she shared her views which are extremely spot on:
“I graduated from LUMS in 2016 and it hasn’t been long when I was in school myself. I remember terrorist drills started back in 2010 when even I was in school. It used to be horrifying. And it was even scarier because we never knew when it would stop, or if it ever would. So having drills not an entirely new phenomenon, it is a safety precaution observed all around the world and it is good to be prepared as much as one can be. But it is tragic the way we are selective in our responses and preparations.
How we have learnt to focus on one aspect of being in a war struck country but haven’t looked at other more essential aspect. Even after the APS and Bacha Khan University attacks we haven’t learnt any lessons.
In Pakistan now our conflict has unfortunately become a matter of entitling shadeed labels and salutes and little about preventing the incidents itself. Schools and colleges are increasingly hiring security experts who are mostly ex armymen and we feel that’s all we need to do. More so I see that students are increasingly accepting the status quo of Pakistan and this fault is also entirely ours. This current state of fear has an immeasurable emotional and psychological cost but the greatest cost is that of a lie. And the students in my class, coming from a renowned private school, are as exposed to this lie as are all others. It is no less than a lie that while we put our children through this perpetual cycle of fear, of schools now barbed with wires, armed security men and metal detectors, we still fail to talk about what the reality of Pakistan’s terrorism and conflict is.
They know that lives are in danger but what does the next generation know how it started and how to deal with it. And lest I be misunderstood, this is not about teaching them self defense. This is not about having more state and army sponsored songs and putting blame on neighboring countries. If our kids are in danger the last thing should be to equip them to fight and the first should be to ask what are the authorities who should be responsible for preventing these attacks doing?
For the facts, our army is largest employer of this country and have we really gotten any better? The tragedy is that not only are we under attack from terrorists, we are under attack from our own institutions that are fooling us since years. And the moment one speaks against them, the moment one ceases to have a safe life. The irony.
My contention is not with terrorist drills, it is a fairly common practice around the world against various calamities. These drills in fact are a reminder that we are in a big mess and I know that these schools are only thinking of the security of their children. But my problem is that we don’t give these children the confidence and freedom to ask questions about what’s happening. In my class, which was a class of relatively older kids of o-levels, once the drill ended I didn’t resume the class like nothing happened. That‘s desensitization.
Something had happened and we needed to remember that. To not feel, is to not live. So we talked about what’s going on, their fears and I think that’s therapeutic to the kids. I gave them a chance to express their thoughts and it helped. We need to start talking. We need to be more critical of what is happening around us and what is often propagated. We need to hold all institutions accountable be it those who uphold education or religion or defense. Otherwise like I was sitting through drills 6 years ago and our children are sitting through them today, this cycle will endlessly continue. Also, no less important is the fact that if we are investing our time in drills we need to also make sure that we don’t undermine the importance of counseling and emotional help.
Hiring psychologists and therapists should be as important as hiring security experts. Our children will otherwise grow up in a conflict zone with no understanding of how to deal with conflict and worse than that they will be silenced in their fears forever.”
The phase of childhood imprints deeply in shaping a person and such stagnant memories have effects on victims, type of effects we people casually ignore. The fact of the matter here is that we need to shape our children sensibly, knowing how these events are not fading any soon.