There are more schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) than Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad combined.
This was stated by a senior Fata official who explained the reason behind a moratorium imposed on the construction of not just schools, but also health facilities till the completion of a human resource survey.
While the actual state of educational and health facilities in Fata remains abysmal, statistics tell a different story.
A senior official of the administration said Fata had 5,572 state-owned schools which are more than the 5,376 state-owned schools combined in some of the country’s largest urban centres. Karachi has 3,609 schools, Islamabad has 467 and Lahore has 1,300.
Although most of the buildings in Fata have been constructed on the territories of tribes, there is little or no planning involved, he said. “They appear as random as one can imagine.”
While the gross enrolment rate (GER) on the primary level (6-10 years) is 77.4% for Fata overall, it is lower than Pakistan as a whole at 91%. K-P stands at 92%, Punjab 100% and Sindh 78%. Fata’s enrolment rate is higher than Balochistan’s which stands at 66%.
The official explained while teachers hired from outside the agency were still making an effort to work in their respective areas, locally hired ones were reluctant. Yet, the system they worked in offered the space to continue drawing salaries.
Missing facilities from the schools were another reason. “We cannot handle so many schools even if they are all functional” he said, adding the quality of education in the area was being affected because there was a school almost every five square kilometres.
The FATA Secretariat has a budget of more than Rs18 billion of which Rs10 billion is spent on the education sector. The majority of the amount goes into teachers’ salaries.
While enrolment in Bajaur is more than other tribal agencies at an estimated 120,000 children, funds provided to Mohmand Agency for education are greater. “The process of allocation of funds needs to be immediately rectified,” he said.
Doctors in absentia
It’s a similar situation within the health sector. The senior official said 12 doctors recently refused to do their job in Fata although they utilised the domicile of the tribal areas to complete their medical education.
In Fata, only 29.5% of births were attended by skilled health personnel, significantly lower than the national average of 86%. In K-P 69% of births are properly attended, while the rate stands at 90% for Punjab, 80% for Sindh and 63% for Balochistan, reflected a survey of development indicators.
The distance to access agency headquarter hospitals is an average of 16.3 kilometres, while a basic health unit is located every 6.7 kilometres.
Looking for human resources
A survey has already begun in Fata to survey the availability of facilities in comparison to human resources. As 60% educational institutions in the tribal areas are closed, their survey will kick off once they reopen.
There are also instances in which employees hold more than one job and worked for none, while still drawing salaries.
After the recent attack by militants on one khasadar check post, six of the seven deceased officials were found to be working in place of someone else.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 27th, 2016.