Teachers’ issue in FATA remains unresolved

This is not to say that the teachers are completely right or the administration is entirely incapable

Iftikhar Firdous May 10, 2016
Teachers from Fata protest at the press club in Mohmand Agency in favour of their demands. PHOTO: EXPRESS/FILE

PESHAWAR: The first quarter of the academic year is almost over while schools in Federally Administered Tribal Areas remain closed as teachers take to the streets everyday but there seems to be no solution in sight.

While the FATA Secretariat, under its rationalisation plan, is trying to “rectify the wrongs” of many a decade, the sufferers are once again none but people of the tribal areas.

Like Fata, its administration is an anomaly, by example of the education department, the teachers are mostly from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and work in the tribal areas on deputation basis. Under the rules, any changes that apply to the teaching staff in K-P will apply to Fata. But that has not happened since 2012 and now the demand is not just for the upgradation but also the arrears that have been pending.

While the FATA Secretariat is not very comfortable to open up and explain their policy, officials say upgradation is not a possibility because of the lack of budgetary allocations for Fata.

They said they want to send some teachers home and close down some schools because their presence is “irrational”, to put it in the simplest of terms. They are either waiting to lay off some of them or if that is not possible to put some of them.

On the streets

The teachers first closed down roads in their respective agencies and then took to the streets in Peshawar.

For the last 20 days they have been protesting in Islamabad. The irony is that even the lawmakers from Fata are protesting alongside them, but there has been no single reply from the machinery that governs Fata, not even a one liner or a syllable uttered.

All of this was happening when the governor of K-P announced an enrolment drive throughout Fata which has now been put on the backburner. Secondly, this is the time of the year when books are distributed among students. Unfortunately that has also been halted. This is not to say that the teachers are completely right or the administration is entirely incapable.

The question raised is where is the state’s machinery that comes to resolve such issues. Apparently, it seems there is someone somewhere who does not want to resolve it? In that case again the sufferers will be nobody else but the people of Fata.

Middle of nowhere

If education and poverty have been the two biggest indicators that drive militancy in Fata, then the question to ask is, where does the government think this is headed?

In 1998, 25 villages of Mohmand Agency, bordering Charsadda, were formally handed over to K-P. But in 2016, neither K-P nor Fata own the area completely.

There are 42 schools in these districts that I would personally refuse to call buildings, the point here is that whenever there are incidents of terrorism around Peshawar, Charsadda and even Mohmand Agency itself, authorities usually suspect the specified 25 villages were used in one way or the other.

If we want normalcy in Fata, teachers who have closed down schools for months would have been a top priority of the government. But then how many people even actually know that schools in Fata are closed?

Published in The Express Tribune, May 11th, 2016.


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