Conflict takes a heavy toll on N Waziristan education sector

By Zulfiqar Ali

File photo

PESHAWAR: The North Waziristan conflict, which has left over 955,900 tribesmen homeless, has put the future of 86,323 students from the government schools of the troubled tribal agency at stake.
The number of children enrolled in private schools of Miramshah, Mirali and other parts of the agency is not known, however.
Children have suffered physically, socially and mentally in the eight years long uncertainty and violence in the area. And, now, the displacement has adversely affected their academic career.
The Zarb-i-Azb military operation, which was launched against militants in North Waziristan on June 18, is taking a heavy toll on children of other Fata agencies, too, where schools and other education institutions have been closed for indefinite period for security reasons.

Schools, colleges occupied by militants and security forces

Like other tribal areas, education sector of North Waziristan is in shambles due to militancy.
Many educational institutions have been occupied either by militants or by security forces.
Among them is the Cadet College of Razmak, which is now a military base.
Its students were first shifted to Peshawar and then Nowshera, which has the college’s new campus.
Though the government has accommodated IDPs in schools and colleges in Bannu, Lakki Marwat, Karak and Dera Ismail Khan districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, how it has no plans for their further shelter as these educational institutions are scheduled to reopen at the end of August after summer vacations.
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Officials in the Fata directorate of education said the number of enrolled students in North Waziristan was 86,323, including 50,429 boys and girls of primary schools.
The Fata Disaster Management Authority has registered 430,475 children, who escaped the conflict along with parents.
According to the directorate, there are 896 educational institutions in North Waziristan, including 604 primary schools, while over 13,000 students are enrolled in middle schools.
Like other parts of Fata, literacy rate in North Waziristan is extremely low.
According to the official record, the total literacy rate in the agency is 15.88 per cent, including 26.77 per cent among men and 1.47 per cent among women.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has announced to provide admissions to the displaced students in colleges and other professional institutions.
Every displaced student will also receive Rs2,000 monthly stipend, minister for higher education Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani had stated in Bannu.
However, the provincial government and Civil Secretariat Fata have yet to work out a plan for thousands of students of primary, middle and high schools spread across the province.
The challenging task for the authorities concerned is the provision of admission to displaced children in the government and private schools in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Displaced parents have also been perturbed by the thought about the future of their children.
Nisar Ali Khan, who heads 67-member committee for overseeing problems of IDPs in Bannu, said after shelter and food, continuation of education of children was major concern for parents.
He said students had already suffered due to curfew and violence in Waziristan and after displacement children had lost opportunities to continue education.
“The provincial government and Fata Secretariat should focus on this issue to save future of our children,” he said.
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The IDPs of North Waziristan instead of residing in clusters have spread all over the country that might make the task more difficult for the concerned quarters, officials said.
Fata director (education) Roze Wali Khan said the issue had been discussed with the Unicef and that a plan would be made to handle it in collaboration with the UN agency and other organisations.
He said in case military operation took time to complete, then the Fata Secretariat would redeploy teaching staff for North Waziristan in settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.The director said the second shift could be introduced in the IDPs host areas like Bannu and Lakki Marwat, which had major concentration of displaced families and children from North Waziristan would be admitted in second shift.
He said the Unicef could also provide tents to arrange classes for displaced children.
Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2014