Peshawar: Low literacy and significant out-of-school children paint a grim picture of education in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) where 5 out of 10 schools lack basic facilities, propounding the implications on local children’s enrollments and dropouts. Previously, the government had doubled the expenditure on education, during the hard-hit militancy era, but no tangible development was witnessed in the in FATA.

The Directorate of Education FATA has the mandate to yield and ensure quality education in the tribal areas with the use of advance skills. However the government’s financial shot in the arm for education was aimed at increasing student enrollment and improving quality, the official budget allocations are focused elsewhere: on employees’ pay, allowances and loans.

The News Lens Pakistan found that the education department has received worthwhile contributions in terms of foreign aid, which are worthless when compared with the outcomes. Currently, USAID, UNDP, UNICEF and GIZ are the prime partners, supporting the soft and hard development in FATA.

Only after the successful military operation in FATA, many schools started their normal operations in the last few years. Presently, of every ten government schools in FATA eight are functional while two are non-functional. The total number of government institutes are 5994 and those private are 408. Of every ten enrolled children, eight go to public schools, while two attend in private school according to the year 2015-2016 official statistical report.

During the militancy in FATA, around 1200 schools were destroyed either fully or partially. Under different annual development programmes, Rehabilitation & Reconstruction Unit (RRU) and foreign donors’ assistance, around 900 schools are rehabilitated and some of them are still under construction as revealed by the data provided by the Directorate of Education. Government figures indicate that about 300 schools still await rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Director Education FATA, Hashim Khan Afridi told News Lens Pakistan that around four million rupees were spent on school furniture and maintenance in Bajaur Agency in 2009, since the blasts destroyed the classrooms and most of the furniture. The remaining furniture was robbed. This is a picture of how schools suffered in FATA for many devastating years.

More than half of Schools without Basic Facilities

Although education department in FATA is striving hard with the goals they aspire to achieve, they are ridden with  major security anxieties; budget constraint, lack of coordination and, poor development plans. More than half of the schools in FATA go without a boundary-wall, electricity, toilets and drinking water facilities, which are the major reasons of increasing dropout ratio and number of out of school children in FATA.

After the terror attack on Army Public School Peshawar on 16 December 2014, when around 144 students were martyred, the government warned all educational institutes across the country to increase their security resources including boundary-wall but FATA remains most vulnerable than in comparison to the other provinces in the country to have more schools without boundary-wall yet. This exhibits the government’s lack of interest to ensure the security of children in FATA and their Education amid grand slogans avowing to teach the children of the enemy, “mujhe dushman ke bachon ko padhana hai”?

Assistant Director Planning and Development, Kashif told News Lens Pakistan that limited resources and budget constraints cause the standstill development in fulfilling the missing basic facilities in schools.

Most of the students quitting schools before fifth grade

The missing basic facilities in FATA might probably be the reason why, every year, the numbers of dropouts increase. The last six years official data reveals that of every ten children six are not able to matriculate. The same is true for fifth grade as most of the children quitting school before completing. Further data research find that in FATA female drop-out rate slightly higher than male, which means seven of every ten female students quit school before completion and six male in every ten.

Additional Director Education FATA, Muhammad Abbas Khan told News Lens Pakistan that upcoming development plan will bring ample changes in education and yes this is the priority to fulfill the missing basic facilities in Schools very soon. He iterated his belief that the day not so far that there will be no school without basic facilities in FATA and all out of school children will be in the class rooms.

More than half of the students cannot pass basic literacy tests

Official data reveal that the basic literacy trends of government school students are perturbing. More than half of the fifth grade students cannot pass their basic writing tests. The graph shows that of every ten students only four can pass English language writing test, four Mathematics, four General Science, five Urdu, and five Islamiyat. “Although we are not comparing rural with urban areas currently, however, there was a time when the performance of FATA schools was better than urban areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), but with the security challenges to the education in FATA have been a blow to schools, now awaiting hefty upgrades,” says Hashim.

An education activist Shahidullah Afridi from FATA told News Lens Pakistan that no matter what resources are at hand, it is the responsibility of teachers to take advantage of the time and shape student interest rather complaining about things.

Out of School Children

Although education is a basic right, according to Article 25-A ‘right to education’ that the State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children across the country; But in FATA between ages 5-9 population 31% still out of school official data reveals. Which means that the population of ages 5-9 of every ten children of FATA five enrolled in public schools, one in private, one in deeni madaris and three out of schools. Further research on data shows that between ages 10-14 population 82.78% children remain out of schools, which means that of every ten 10-14 year old children in FATA, only one is enrolled in public school, one in private school and eight out of school till now the age population of age 10-14. This graph details the gross enrollment ratio with respect to different age groups.

Hashim iterated that the education department has support of security agencies to protect the schools in FATA from any risk and also they provide security during rehabilitation and reconstruction of schools. It is hoped that the support of local political agents in bringing-back and enroll out-of-school children in FATA, improved outcomes could be afoot.

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