PESHAWAR: Muhammad Salman’s school is a kilometre away from his residence in Nogazey Baba, district Khyber. Where for many children his age, school often means classrooms and playgrounds but for the third grader it’s a moth-eaten tent under the open sky.
Salman’s school was one of the many which were compromised during 2009’s military operation against the militants in the area. Although the land was repopulated in 2015 but the schools razed to the ground were never rebuilt. The tents once provided as a temporary arrangement too have gone threadbare in the last four years; leaving little between the students and cold winds which cut like shards of glass.
“In the winters we cannot study because of the cold, in the summers it’s the rain which soaks the tents,” said Salman, who aspires to study medicine someday.
Muhammad Khwas Khan, a teacher at the same school, told The Express Tribune that for years he and his students have patched the tents at their own expense but now they are beyond repair. “These raggedy tents paint a picture of severe neglect, they were never meant to be used for this long.”
According to District Khyber Education Officer Jadoon Wazir, they’ve requested the government several times to rebuild the destroyed schools. However, they feel their words have landed on deaf ears as the government has failed to include the reconstruction of the schools in PC-1 of the budget. “Currently there are 77 tented schools in the tehsil which were set up with the joint help of China-Aid and Pak-Army, but 29 schools have still not been provided tents to this day,” said District Khyber Education Officer, Jadoon Wazir.
Khyber District Education’s data reveals that out of the 87 schools which were completely destroyed by militant activity during tehsil Bara’s occupancy, majority were the ones which focused on women’s education. To add to this, Islam Gul, a journalist and resident of Tehsil Bara says that despite the amalgamation of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the government’s subsequent promise of providing budget and infrastructure in the area, next to nothing has been done to reconstruct the razed schools.
“The government claims about focusing on education but the tented schools have kept most parents in the district from letting their daughters attend classes, which has taken a serious toll on the ratio of women’s education in the area,” he informs.
On the other hand, Advisor to the Chief Minister on Education Zia Ullah Bangash, expressed that the government intends to construct a 100 new schools in Tehsil Bara as well as rebuild ones which were razed, with the help of China-Aid, Pak-Army and other organizations.
“The government is especially focusing on education in the merged districts and soon every child here will have access to quality education,” he told. “We plan to constrict around 854 more schools and recruit 4,755 teachers in K-P. SNE has been approved for these schools and soon the construction will underway.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2019.