Peshawar: Concerns are raised in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), as the FATA Secretariat Education department, supported by UNICEF, is yet to provide free Textbooks to government schools in tribal areas. The new academic session has commenced from 8 April without Textbooks and the enrollment campaign with the aim to enroll out of school children into classroom is underway. Further it is clear that in the absence of adequate laws and monitoring system in FATA public officials are fearlessly misusing their powers.
FATA, located between Afghanistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was given the status since Pakistan’s Independence has been governed through a separate set of laws known as FCR (Frontier Crimes Regulations) developed by the colonial British. However, the unchecked powers at the hands of FATA’s jirgas gave FCR the much-maligned name of the black law.
FATA secretariat draws its funding from the federal government but little changes have been brought about in the region: unfortunately basic education one of them. Basic education seems far from the right path due to lack of policies and absence of monitoring systems. In the recent decade most of the schools, destroyed by the militants, are in need of reconstruction; some were and are still used by Pakistan Army; and some of them are still not functional. The absence of properly staffed schools makes it harder for students to pass their final exams especially with challenges of security situation and lack of timely support by FATA secretariat education department.
Education is one of the basic fundamental human rights. Pakistan is a signatory to UN convention right to education in 1989. The vision of Prime Minister of Pakistan realizes this, promising that every child should be in schools further complying to Article 25-A right to education: “The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law.”
In discussion with Rana Asif Habib, Lawyer and President Initiator Human Development Foundation (IHDF), says that the issue of missing Textbooks in schools of FATA is violation of article 25-A, vision PM, and UN convention right to education; the concerned authority should be responsible to provide books on time. It’s clear that the concerned authority has to fail to provide Textbooks before new academic session, which may exacerbate the dropout rate in FATA. He rued that if there are no books in the classrooms, student will lose their interest to come to schools.
Truth Tracker (TT) investigated the matter of Textbooks in Tribal Area’s schools, confirming with different sources ranging from FATA locals and teachers. The sources confirmed that despite the demand submission by schools for Textbooks to Agency Education Officers (AEO) no Textbooks we have been received. FATA’s school year started on April 8th. Truth Tracker discovered that class 8th students received two books, class 9th students got only three books and class tenth students only have English books.
FATA teachers added that this is not the first time they are facing the issue, it happens every year and many a times they have reported the issue to Education Department. The Authorities just give hope that textbooks will be dispatched soon, which doesn’t resolve the issue. Further TT became aware of the fact that Head Masters of a Khyber Agency schools personally approached and requested urban area schools for donating. Similar cases were found in Kohat region.
When Truth Tracker discussed the issue with FATA Secretariat Education Department. The officials confirmed that schools in South, North Waziristan, Khyber and Kurram Agency have already received textbooks. TT discovered that South Waziristan and Kurram agencies receive more attention by FATA Secretariat. Out of total education budget of FATA for year 2014-2015, South Waziristan received 30 per cent and Kurram agency 23 per cent; the rest of the education budget was distributed to the rest of the agencies and regions of FATA.
However, upon further investigation from the FATA Agencies, where authorities dispatch of books, Truth Tracker confirmed that the statements offered by Education Department were false, as the sources from these places confirmed that textbooks were never received by the schools. Truth tracker discovered that the education department keeps no record of Textbooks delivery to the schools. Upon investigation head master disclosed that the little number of schools that received the textbooks got them due to their personal relations with FATA secretariat.
Further Education Department agreed that the issue of Textbooks was cyclical despite the fact that the department brought the matter to the attention of KP education department and Textbook printing center in Islamabad. The Education Department noted that they don’t own printing centers therefore the issue is out of their hands. They however confirmed that the dispatch process has begun and they are hopeful that by end of April or first week of May all government schools of FATA will receive the books.
Zeeshan Qasim Assistant Professor, Gomal University DIKhan says “without a book how can be they survive in class room, this will destroy the student’s interest and maybe the target to enroll out of school children will remain out of schools”
A local parent talking to Truth Tracker “we can tolerate militancy despite they affected our lives but missing books in schools cant as this will destroy the future of our children’s”
Whatever the concerned authorities say does not mitigate the gravity of the textbook disappearance from FATA schools. It is high time that a monitoring division be placed for education related activities outside of FATA secretariat to ensure and make the process of printing textbooks quick prior to the new academic year session. Sadly despite many attempts by Truth Tracker, the governor KP was not available for comment.