The female district education officer (DEO)’s post in Bannu has been lying vacant for a year, raising question marks over the prospects of education for female children.
Speaking to The Express Tribune over the phone, Assistant DEO Sanobar Khan said the post fell vacant after the previous DEO was suspended by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education department for unknown reasons.
Since then, the provincial government has failed to appoint a new DEO to fill the position.
“At this stage, the assistant female DEO is currently working as the acting DEO in the district,” Khan said. “I am also assisting her in fulfilling these responsibilities.”
Fuel to the fire
Insiders familiar with the matter believe the vacancy has added to existing problems and limited the prospects for girls to get an education in the region.
“The education of girls remains a challenge in Bannu district,” Sher Ali Khan, a social activist in the district told The Express Tribune. “Only 30% of girls actually end up going to school – which is comparatively lower than the number of boys.”
According to Sher Ali, the failure to appoint a new DEO has put the education of girls in the district on the back burner.
“The situation was already quite abysmal,” he said. “However, for a year now, most campaigns and activities to encourage girls to go to school have screeched to a halt. The problems faced by the education sector are not being raised on any major platform. No public representative is giving priority to the matter.”
Cycle of injustice
Sher Ali said there were a limited number of middle and high schools.
“Most schools are situated in cities, not the rural areas,” he added. “As a result, most people in far-flung villages do not study beyond the primary level.”
According to the activist, these challenges are likely to put girls in a far weaker position.
“The dropout rate among girls is quite high due to a series of cultural factors,” he said. “After class five, girls are discouraged from going to school.”
Sher Ali urged the government to tackle this problem to ensure more girls get the opportunity to study.
“Every year, the government allocates a very limited amount of money for the education of girls in Bannu,” he said. “Many government officials claim the ratio of girls attending school is relatively low (in an attempt to justify the allocation). This is not a viable solution to the problem.”
The activist pressed the government to immediately appoint a new DEO to bring a positive change.
“The government needs to construct new schools and upgrade existing ones,”
Promise of change
When contacted, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Elementary and Secondary Education Additional Secretary Qaiser Alam Khan said the vacant post will be filled soon.
“We were initially waiting for the budget for 2015-16,” he said. “After it was announced last month, we finished all the necessary paperwork regarding vacant posts in every district. We will take action against this very soon.”
The additional secretary denied that the government was not interested in encouraging girls in Bannu to get an education.
“We will equally distribute funds to boost the education of the girl child in all districts,” he said. “The amount for each district is the same.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2015.