Schools in Pakistan’s tribal districts struggle to write the next chapter

Special Schools in Pakistan’s tribal districts struggle to write the next chapter
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According to a “statistical report 2017-18 of government educational institutions,” out of a total of 307 non-functional institutions, there are 271 (163 male and 271 female) primary schools, 24 (13 male and 24 female) middle schools, and 12 (eight male and four female) high schools. (AN photos)
Special Schools in Pakistan’s tribal districts struggle to write the next chapter
2 / 3
According to a “statistical report 2017-18 of government educational institutions,” out of a total of 307 non-functional institutions, there are 271 (163 male and 271 female) primary schools, 24 (13 male and 24 female) middle schools, and 12 (eight male and four female) high schools. (AN photos)
Special Schools in Pakistan’s tribal districts struggle to write the next chapter
3 / 3
According to a “statistical report 2017-18 of government educational institutions,” out of a total of 307 non-functional institutions, there are 271 (163 male and 271 female) primary schools, 24 (13 male and 24 female) middle schools, and 12 (eight male and four female) high schools. (AN photos)
Updated 21 December 2018

Schools in Pakistan’s tribal districts struggle to write the next chapter

Schools in Pakistan’s tribal districts struggle to write the next chapter
  • More than 300 continue to be non-functional a decade after a military clampdown
  • Several other issues persist such as lack of staff and unqualified teachers

PESHAWAR: At least 307 schools in the newly-merged tribal districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province continue to remain non-functional more than a decade after several families were displaced and later repatriated to their hometowns, in the backdrop of military operations to stamp out terror from the region, a senior official from the Directorate of Education said on Friday.
“Non-availability of teachers, zero enrolments, vacant teachers’ posts, local disputes, sectarian issues, and military operations are some of the reasons for the institutions to become non-functional,” Gul Rukh Wazir, a computer programmer at the Directorate of Education (DoE) in the area, told Arab News.
She backed her claims with statistics from 2017-2018 to show that 184 boys and 123 girls’ schools are non-functional.
KP’s Education Minister, Zia Ullah Bangash, said that his government had plans in place to implement much-needed reforms in the tribal districts, which had been previously implemented in the province.
“Also, plans are in the pipeline to rebuild damaged schools, hire 2,500 new teaching staff and extend Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU) to supervise all initiatives. I will visit the merger districts in the last half of this month to better assess the situation,” Bangash said. 
According to a “statistical report 2017-18 of government educational institutions” compiled by the Education Management Information System (EMIS) of the newly-merged districts, out of a total of 307 non-functional institutions, there are 271 (163 male and 271 female) primary schools, 24 (13 male and 24 female) middle schools, and 12 (eight male and four female) high schools. 
She added that the tribal districts house nearly 5,890 educational institutions ranging from primary to government colleges for elementary teachers, with 3,470 set up for boys and 2,420 for girls.
According to statistics from the same period, a total of 677,157 children have been enrolled in the schools following the repatriation of the Temporary Displaced Persons (TDPs), and include 422,235 boys and 254,922 girls among them.
Similarly, a total of 18,621 teachers are imparting education in the aforementioned schools and colleges.
Khan Malik, president of the all tribal districts’ teachers association, said that the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) had experienced an unprecedented upheaval for more than a decade, hoping that things would gradually come back on track.
“We want those schools to be made functional without any further delay. At the same time, we demand that the government provides all facilities such as furniture, drinking water, and boundary walls to all tribal areas’ educational institutions,” he said. 
According to data reviewed by Arab News, the teacher and student ratio in the government’s primary schools that are functional (including mosques and community schools) is 1:51.
Similarly, the student and classroom ratio in the same schools is 1:59. 
Additionally, the overall Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) — based on the population in the past four to nine years – in FATA’s government-held primary schools is 43.83 percent. Out of that percentage, the GER for boys is 49.72 percent and girls are 37.45 percent, while the Net Enrollment Ratio (NER) at the primary level is 40.38 percent with 45.83 for boys and 34.49 percent for girls. 
However, the overall drop-out rate from grade one to five in the government-held primary schools —  in the past six years — is 73 percent, out of which 69 percent represents boys while 79 percent is of girls. 
According to statistics, as many as 471,072 children from grade one to five, and another 556,382 from grade six to 10 are out of schools in the seven tribal districts. 
Locals said that several teachers serving in non-functional schools, prior to the military’s intervention in the South Waziristan district, had moved out of the country to the Gulf but continued to draw salaries from the province’s pockets.
“There are schools where teachers discharge their duties turn-by-turn or bribe senior educational officers on a monthly basis who in return exonerate those teachers from their duties,” a tribesman from the area, who wished to remain anonymous fearing a backlash from certain sections of society, told Arab News.
Back in 2009, Pakistan’s military had launched operations in certain parts of the tribal region, along the border with Afghanistan, to flush out militants from the area.
The clampdown had a far-reaching impact on the education sector, which was already in a dilapidated condition even as the literacy rate plunged to 10.5 percent for girls and 36.66 percent for boys.
Additionally, at least 1,500 educational institutions were either torched or bombed during clashes between the security forces and militants, depriving thousands of students of their right to education.
FATA’s Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) estimates that almost all the TDPs and their families have now been repatriated to their hometowns after spending years being displaced.
However, after being repatriated to their hometowns, locals voiced the issues faced by them on a daily basis, such as a lack of a medical or an engineering college in the entire tribal area.
The same set of tribal elders added that the only positive aspect of the entire experience is that the military has established Cadet Colleges and Army Public Schools (APS) in almost all the tribal districts.
An official at the DoE, who wished to remain anonymous as he is not authorized to speak to the media, said that a detailed report of the expenses required to hire hundreds of teachers had been pending with the federal government.
“We continue to have a shortage of around 5,000 staff, including teachers and technical staff. We have requested the federal government time and again to recruit new staff but the federal government employs delaying tactics,” he added.
The report presents a dismal picture of the education sector in the tribal region where several schools continue to face an acute shortage of water, toilets, electricity, and furniture. It added that only 45.2 percent of schools have a drinking water facility, 43 percent have electricity, 45 percent have toilets, while 70 percent have boundary walls.
Wazir said that the total number of sanctioned posts for teachers is 22,030 but the existing number stands at 18,621.
The report failed to detail or identify reasons for children dropping out of schools in tribal districts where the literacy rate is 33.3 percent. However, Irfan Ullah Khan, an M-Phil student at the Hazara University in one of the tribal districts, said that displacement, non-availability of facilities at educational institutions, and insecurity contributed to the deteriorating conditions of the education sector.
“Another serious reason is that most of the teaching staff in tribal districts is unqualified and unprofessional who are unable to teach the new syllabus as designed by the KP government,” he said.