Conflict Monitoring Center (CMC) annual Report shows that the militants have blown up 81 schools in Khyber Pakhtunekhwa (KPK) and Federal Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) in 2012. The militants destroyed 52 schools in KPK and 29 in FATA. In KPK, the most effected district was Swabi where 13 schools were destroyed which means that one school was destroyed in every month of the year. The Charsadda comes after that where militants destroyed 10 schools. The militants destroyed eight and five schools in Nowshera and Mardan districts respectively. Four schools were destroyed in Kohat, four in Laki Marwat, two in Dera Ismail Khan, two in Hangu, and one in Swat and one in Tank district. Out of the 29 destroyed schools in FATA, Mohmand Agency was the most effected agency where militants destroyed 16 schools over the same period while nine schools were blown up by the militants in Khyber Agency. One school each was destroyed in Bajour Agency, North Waziristan Agency and in South Waziristan Agency. The sorrowful picture of the education sector in KPK and FATA is still continued. The militancy acted as a bomb shell for education sector.
The findings expose the miserable state of educational sector in Pakistan, where the Pakistani Taliban shot 15 years old Malala Yousifzai, the educational activist, in October to silence her campaign for the right to an education. A recent UN report shows that nearly three quarters of young Pakistani girls are not enrolled in schools, 55 percent of all Pakistani adults are illiterate, and the illiteracy rate in females is about 75 percent[i].
An official data shows that the militants had destroyed over 758 schools in different districts of the KPK province, including 640 schools in Malakand Division from 2009 to 2011. Among these schools, 166 were destroyed and 477 were partially damaged in the areas in the wake of military operation. Before the military operation, militants had also occupied schools and turned the buildings into hideouts. In addition to that, 40 schools in Peshawar, Hangu, Bannu, Laki Marwat, Nowshera, Kohat and other areas of the province (KPK) were completely destroyed by the militants and 83 were partially damaged[ii]. Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2012 states that Pakistan have a total of 5.1 million children out of school, making it the nation with second highest out-of-school children in the world[iii]. Being sixth largest populated country, Pakistan is facing the education crises. In 2011, 250 children died in armed conflicts in different parts of the country. Majority were killed in FATA and KPK. Apart from the life threats, the harmful psychological impacts of prolonged conflicts affected thousands of students in the war-torn region. Poor security situation in FATA and KPK presents a sorrowful picture of the students’ future.
According to official data of FATA Secretariat, the militants have destroyed 450 schools in FATA in recent years. Among the destroyed schools 68 boys and 26 girls schools were destroyed in Bajaur Agency, 66 boys and 23 girls schools in Mohmand Agency, and 31 boys and 27 girls schools in Khyber Agency[iv].
Militants’ hatred towards the modern education is one of the reasons behind militant campaign against the educational institutions in the regions including KPK and FATA. The education crises is the result of over a decade long militancy, which began when US led forces toppled the Taliban government in Kabul, forcing militants to flee Afghanistan. The very first school was destroyed in South Waziristan Agency. The campaign of pulverizing the schools across the region is still in progress unabated. When Pakistani military was deployed in FATA, it had no infrastructure available to station its troops. Specific areas were declared as war zones and troops were stationed in available government buildings including educational institutions. Militant use this as an argument to justify their attacks against schools.
Steps taken by KPK government and FATA Secretariat
The government of KPK has not allocated enough funds to reconstruct the destroyed schools. Although United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided funds reconstruction of destroyed schools but the work initiated to rebuild some of the blown up schools is very slow. Pakistan Army also rehabilitated some of the schools but majority of the schools still lack adequate attention from the concerned quarters. Unfortunately, there are cases when the authorities rebuilt a school, the militants destroyed it again, and underscoring the fact, the educational institutions have no security. Priorities of the KPK government can be gauged from the fact that it has allocated just 2.21 (6.7 billion out of 303 billion) percent of its annual budged for 2012-2013.
In FATA only 17 percent of the destroyed schools have been rebuilt as enough funds were not available from international donors and annual development program. Ten thousand additional paramilitary troops are also deployed to protect the schools from militant attacks. However, these steps proved insufficient to protect the schools.
Destruction of schools in FATA is understandable as most parts of these areas are severely affected by militancy, however, CMC’s data shows that highest number of schools in KPK were destroyed in Swabi district which is not as much affected by militancy as Peshawar, Charsadda or some other districts are. There is a need to dig out other facts involved in destruction of schools in the province.
Impacts of destruction of schools
Thousands of the students have been deprived off from their basic right of education. These uneducated students are potential recruits of militancy. Extremism in the society cannot be transformed into moderate views until mass scale education facilities and access to these facilities are not provided.
The KPK govermnent or FATA secretariat has done no concerted efforts to ensure that the next generation of the tribal people and KPK inhabitants may not be deprived of education. The schools are used for different purposes by the security forces and political administrations in the affected areas. There are no alternative mediums for the affected students where they could continue their studies.
- The students of the destroyed and damaged schools must be provided other alternative facilities such as tent and other services, which are required for the schools.
- KPK government must allocate specific budget for rebuilding of destroyed schools as well as for the continuity of education process for affected students.
- In case of negotiations with militants security of education institutions must be on top of the agenda. If there is no ceasefire possible, at least, government with the help of tribal elders must pursue the militants not to attack schools and other modern educational institutions.
- Syllabi for schools in KPK and FATA must incorporate Islamic teachings in a way that militants can be pursued that modern schools are not providing any ‘anti-Islam’ education.
- Moderate scholars from all schools of thoughts should be taken on board regarding modern education for girls in backward areas. Local cleric can be play vial role in reshaping mindset in the area.
Naveed Ahsan is a research fellow with Conflict Monitoring Center.
[i] “Nearly three-quarters of Pakistani girls not in school: report”, Daily Dawn, December 14, 2012, http://dawn.com/2012/12/12/nearly-three-quarters-of-pakistani-girls-not-in-school-report/
[ii] Islamuddin Sajid “Over 3,000 schools destroyed in militancy, disasters: official”, Daily Express Tribune, June 15, 2012 http://tribune.com.pk/story/393911/over-3000-schools-destroyed-in-militancy-disasters-official/
[iii] Aroosa Shaukat “Despite having second worst record for children out of school, UNESCO optimistic”, Express Tribune October 24, 2012 http://tribune.com.pk/story/456334/despite-having-second-worst-record-for-children-out-of-school-unesco-optimistic/
[iv] Israr Alam Mohmand “Students Left Behind In Pakistan’s Tribal Regions”, Radio Free Europe, September 17, 2012 http://www.rferl.org/content/pakistan-students-left-behind-in-fata/24710912.html