Education in crisis: No respite for Mohmand Agency students

Published: May 23, 2013
According to an official in the education department in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa around 15% of the population of the FATA is literate. PHOTO: FILE

According to an official in the education department in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa around 15% of the population of the FATA is literate. PHOTO: FILE

SHABQADAR: Pakistan spends seven times more on military expenditure than on education, according to a 2012 Unesco report. It ranks 113 out of 120 countries in the Education Development Index.

It then comes as no surprise rural areas get the short end of the stick. Basic provisions such as rooms to sit in, clean water to drink and running water in toilets are not a given; students do not expect these luxuries.

An official in the education department in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa estimates around 15% of the population of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is literate. Possibly, less than 5% of females in the tribal belt are educated.

The situation in Fata is further compounded by militancy – schools in Fata remain under constant threat. According to a news report, over 100 schools have been destroyed by militants in Mohmand Agency.

Mohmand Agency is administratively divided into eight subdivisions.

Three of these subdivisions namely, Khwaizai, Baizai and Abmar have no middle or high school for both male and female students. The bleak outcome of having few or no secondary institutions is summed up by an Annual Status of Education Report (Aser) 2012 finding – ‘For every twenty children in class one, only three are in class ten’ in Fata.

The subdivisions which do have schools suffer from a lack of basic facilities.

Around 60 educational institutes have been destroyed in Safi subdivision during militant insurgencies. Over half of the schools in Safi have been closed since June 2008. In 2011, the education department announced these schools had been reopened; however, it was only on paper.

Requesting anonymity, a high school teacher from Safi told The Express Tribune he had been receiving his salary regularly since the school ‘reopened.’

Schools in Qandhari and Gurbaz (areas in Safi) are not functioning, even if they are open, he shares. Teachers from Qandhari have been reposted to other schools but in Gurbaz, schools remain closed and teaching staff remain absent out of fear – Gurbaz is an area with the highest number of schools destroyed.

Hasan Khan, a resident of Qandharo, Safi says children have to go to a school in Haleemzai tehsil. Hasan did not leave his area for safer grounds, even in the midst of militancy. However, Hasan now wants to relocate for the sake of his children’s education.

The school in Haleemzai is in a dilapidated state. Malik Rashid Khan of Kadi Ghalanai told The Express Tribune the school was established in 1962 and upgraded to a middle school in 1972.

“It has not been repaired since because one needs to bribe government officials or have strong political support for getting repairs done,” claims Rashid.

Officials from the education department visited the school and promised to repair it but the promise was yet to be fulfilled, he shares.

M Nazir, a teacher at this school, originally hails from Mardan and has been residing in the school’s office building. He complains of lack of basic facilities like electricity, clean drinking water, security, etc.

Students go to a nearby seminary to get water while lack of electricity in the summer was another problem for them, complains Nazir.

Tariq Khan, a student of class eight confirms this; they go to the seminary daily to fetch water for the teacher. Students have no such ‘perks’.

Grade-six student Abdullah says he comes to school on foot from Halki Gandao which is around four kilometres away. “When I get to school there is no water to drink, no fans to make it less hot.”

Summer holidays start from mid-June and end in August, however many students of the schools have already gone on leave due to lack of facilities as temperatures start to rise.

When contacted, officials in Mohmand maintained 24 out of 113 destroyed schools in the agency are undergoing re-construction.

FATA Education Department estimates over 600 schools have been destroyed in Fata by militants. The government is working towards rebuilding them with the help of the United Arab Emirates.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2013.

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