Education for Fata
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2016
ALTHOUGH Pakistan’s annual education statistics outline stark realities such as low school enrolment and retention rates as well as inadequate resources and infrastructure, successive governments have yet to comprehend the benefits of educating 24 million out-of-school children.
In Fata alone, the Directorate of Education failed to enrol some 150,000 children in primary education during a two-month campaign ending on May 31.
Aimed at essentially enrolling 400,000 out-of-school children in primary education as part of a three-year drive in the country’s militancy-affected northwest, the campaign’s ineffectiveness implies the need to overcome many challenges — poor security, lack of capacity to implement education plans and inadequate allocation of resources.
Such dismal education indicators for a militancy-prone region are dangerous for the future when the militants’ campaign against education has spread fear among students, their families and teachers.
In 2009, when the Taliban took over Swat and banned girls’ education, 900 schools were forcibly closed down. When schools become a soft target and children are terrorised by violent attacks, the effect on enrolment, including teacher recruitment is debilitating for overall education goals.
Civil administrations overseeing education development must realise that rebuilding schools previously razed to the ground is essential as are steps for increasing enrolment, and training teachers.
Also, monitoring the utilisation of education resources is deserving of urgent attention if projects are to be implemented. Consistent government action on education in Fata and KP will serve as a message for groups against education, especially girls’ schooling, perceived as promoting Western values.
According to the Global Terrorism Database that looks at over 200 countries, Pakistan tops the list for attacks against educational targets. It is within this context that girls’ education has been a particular Taliban target over the past decade.
Consider a dawn.com report on education in Swat’s remote Mangor Kot village, north of Mingora. With no provision for girls’ middle schools, families have willingly sent their daughters to local boys’ schools. That the local administrations in KP and Fata recognise their responsibility towards education provision becomes all the more urgent when there is an overwhelming desire to learn even in dilapidated, roofless schools, and despite traversing mountainous terrain by foot to get to school.
Moreover, when students are provided with secure learning environments, this acts as a reminder that the state is geared to counter radical ideologies, especially where conservatism breeds radical thought and education opportunities are few and not easily accessible.