Khyber Agency: Three times unlucky

Each school in Bara subdivision has been blown up three times.


Amirzada Afridi October 15, 2011

KHYBER AGENCY: Around 58 schools, mostly those for girls, have been attacked by militants in Khyber Agency since the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

“The militants have also destroyed scores of schools, including the girls degree college in Darra Adam Khel, which borders the Khyber Agency,” Hashim Khan, education officer for the Khyber Agency, told The Express Tribune. Surprisingly, education institutes in Kurram Agency have been spared by militants, Khan added.

Each school in Bara subdivision has been blown up three times by militants, it is reported.

In Bara, hundreds of schools have been closed since the security forces launched an operation against extremist group Lashkar-e-Islam in 2009. This has put the future of thousands of students at risk.

However, Rehan Gul Khattak, Assistant Political Agent for Bara, said that all schools in the Bar Qambarkhel area of Bara were reopened a week ago. The rest will open once the security operation is completed.

Khan said that the education department has made arrangements for hundreds of students from Bara subdivision to move to the settled areas of neighbouring Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

In the remote Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency, schools have been shut for the past two years because teachers have been threatened by militants. Hundreds of community schools were also shut in the region, but were reopened by the Fata Secretariat following relentless protests by teachers.

Compared to Bara, the situation is comparatively better in Jamrud and Landikotal subdivisions. But even here students study in tents perched on the debris of schools destroyed by militants.

Haji Moeez Khan, a landlord in the Bakkarabad area of Jamrud, recalls an attack on a boys primary school built on his land. “I was sleeping at home when I heard a huge blast. I rushed out of my house and saw the school building reduced to a heap of bricks.”

Khan said the education department provided them a few chairs, stationery, blackboard and a tent.

In the Khyber village of Landikotal, girls schools have primarily been targeted. Now villagers have started hiring women teachers so that girls can at least study at their hujras (guesthouses).

“My little daughter, Laila, studied at a local school. The day it was destroyed, Laila came to me crying, ‘Where will I study now,” said a villager Hamid Gul, while referring to Muhammad Shah Primary School which was dynamited last week.

The Express Tribune tried to contact spokespersons of different militant groups in Khyber Agency, but no one was ready to comment on the issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2011.

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