A news story on March 19, 2014, received maximum coverage in Pakistan’s daily newspapers, in which a photograph showed children sitting under the open sky, holding umbrellas in one hand and pencil and papers in the other, solving exam papers. In the wave of militancy in 2009, the Government Girls High School Bandi was destroyed by militants. Painfully, that school could not lure attention of those at the helms of affairs even after five years. The unfortunate students of the school are helpless, forced to acquire education under the open sky, shivering in the cold and perspiring and withering in the scorching heat.
The Governor of KP took notice of the news item and asked authorities to submit a report in that connection. When will this school be reconstructed is a matter of time, but this plight is not of only one institution of the province, but thousands of children of over 500 schools of KP are facing tragic situation. The fact is that the war on terror and its reaction inflicted severe pain and misery to the people of Pakistan in many spheres, the most affected among them is the sector of education, especially in KP.
The institutions which were damaged were located mainly in Malakand Division and Fata. In Malakand, over 500 schools were destroyed, and in tribal areas, over 450 schools were wrecked. This is a heart-wrenching dilemma that the authorities have still not shown any seriousness to rehabilitate these schools. The infrastructure to which militants wreaked havoc during military operation in Malakand in 2009 included roads, bridges, police stations and educational institution, of which highest number is of girl schools.
Due to culpable apathy of the authorities, the children who are supposed to lead the nation in the future are languishing under the open sky, and no one is there to provide them respite. Although there have been some signs of rehabilitation of these institutions in Malakand Division, in Fata areas nothing such has been noticed so far and the plight of the children is extremely pitiable.
The federally administrated areas were reportedly allocated seven billion rupees, but amazingly the government has not still embarked on the journey of reconstruction and rehabilitation of these institutions. Now due to the sheer indifferent attitude of the government, many leaders of the area have developed their opinion that the people sitting in the power corridors do not want the people of these areas to study and flourish. International funding agencies initiated ‘food package’ to attract the students of Khayber and Mohmand agencies to schools, and these packages really worked in this regard, but the government due to unknown reasons abruptly closed the programme.
The crucial geographical location of the area and the process of radicalization among the youth demands serious and relentless efforts for education sector. The geographical importance of the region and involvement of youth in militant activities should not be seen in isolation, and there should be practical steps in this regard. Establishment of educational institutions in a large number, especially universities, must be top priority of the government so that the youth of the region could be stopped from falling prey to the indoctrination of the religious fanatics.
Hamid Ullah, who topped the Malakand Board in metric results of the year 2011, was a student of Government High School Sangoli, which was demolished by militants. The boy did not forsake his efforts and kept on working hard, and finally he outclassed all his peers. This depicts that there is no deficiency of talent among these youths, but the need of the hour is to provide them proper facilities. According to the EDO Education Lower Dir, Hafiz Ibrahim, the government has started the process of reconstruction of schools, but the speed is very slow and they are unable to produce required results.
The government should not waste time any more and should immediately accelerate the work in the area so that people of the area who have been worst affected by militancy as well as negligence of subsequent governments could have some level of satisfaction. Otherwise, we will be consolidating the already nurturing sense of alienation among the people of these areas which could have horrendous implications for the efforts for establishing sustainable peace and stability in the whole region.
By Abdullah Madni, WEEKLY PULSE, May 12, 2014