Gender dynamics: Half as many girls as boys going to school in tribal areas

Only 30% women able to pursue higher education, says FATA Secretariat official.


Asad Zia November 15, 2014

PESHAWAR:


Among school-going children in the tribal belt, boys outnumber girls by almost a two-to-one ratio, revealed official papers released on Saturday by the FATA Secretariat Directorate of Education.


According to a copy of the documents available with The Express Tribune, a total of 600,967 children are enrolled in 5,686 schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Frontier Regions (FR). The number of boys enrolled at these schools is 393,118 whereas only 207,849 girls attend the 2,402 girls schools in the tribal belt.

An official at the FATA Secretariat told The Express Tribune the ratio of girls attending schools in Fata has always remained low compared to boys.

There are countless factors that keep girls from getting an education, he said. “Parents usually do not allow their daughters to go to schools. However, this cannot be seen as a sweeping generalization,” the official added. “The number of girls who go to school in Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency, Kurram Agency, FR Bannu, FR Kohat and FR Lakki Marwat is comparatively high.”

Sticking points

According to the official, only 30% women are able to pursue higher education due to the lack of adequate higher education facilities.

“There is no university for women in the tribal belt,” he said. “There are only five higher and secondary schools, 13 degree colleges and an elementary college for women.”

More often than not, the absence of female teachers has proved to be a major hurdle which prevents girls from going to school in Fata, the official added.

Militancy and flooding in the tribal belt have also taken its toll on the education sector and created obstacles for girls to attend schools. The official claimed that nearly 500 girls schools have remained largely non-functional due to militancy and natural disasters.

He added 76 girls schools —  including primary, middle and high schools — have been non-functional in Orakzai Agency. Similarly, 28 schools in Mohmand Agency, 21 schools in Bajaur Agency, 28 schools in Khyber Agency and 16 schools in Kurram Agency are lying vacant.

Challenges and solutions

Speaking to The Express Tribune, FATA Secretariat Spokesperson Fazlullah Khan said a series of projects and reforms have been introduced by the Directorate of Education to improve the quality of education in Fata and FRs.

According to Fazlullah, the directorate is working towards improving education facilities and has started issuing stipends to female students. Moreover, an awareness drive has been initiated to raise awareness among tribesmen about educating girls. A series of initiatives have also been developed to train teachers.

“The directorate has engaged stakeholders in comprehensive and systematic planning and produced the FATA Teacher Education Strategy 2013-2018,” Fazlullah said.

Through this scheme, it will support USAID teacher’s education project and form a taskforce with representatives from government colleges, FATA Secretariat, students and practicing teachers, the spokesperson said.

The taskforce will analyse the teacher’s education system in Fata and devise a set of policy reforms.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 16th, 2014.

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