More than half of the schools in the newly merged tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) lack basic facilities like access to water and electricity supply. Tackling this issue is a gigantic task for the provincial government, which is struggling to bring these schools at par with rest of the province.
A report of the Independent Monitoring Unit (IMU) of KP Elementary and Secondary Education Department on schools in the merged districts presents a gloomy picture of the state of education in these areas. It is a comprehensive report, covering basic facilities, attendance of students and teachers as well as availability of non-teaching staff in schools of the merged districts of KP.
According to the report, 55 percent of the schools lack electricity and 51 percent have no water available. Similarly, 30 percent have no toilets and 18 percent have no boundary walls.
The IMU staff visited 5,788 schools of the total 5,889 in the merged districts. They covered Bajaur, Khyber, Kurram, Mohmand, Orakzai, North Waziristan, South Waziristan and the frontier regions of Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Kohat, Lakki, Peshawar and Tank in the survey.
As many as 101 schools, which makes two percent of the total in areas of Bajaur, North Waziristan and Khyber districts, could not be visited due to security risks. The report states that 96 percent of the schools in FR Lakki have no electricity; in Bajaur the number stands at 69 percent of schools without electricity and in South Waziristan, 67 percent schools are without power. In Orakzai and Dera Ismail Khan, 61 percent and 60 percent schools are in the dark, respectively.
As many as 81 percent schools in Lakki do not have access to water. In Mohmand about 69 percent schools have no water. A similar situation exists in Dera Ismail Khan, where 68 percent schools have no water. Over 50 percent schools in Bannu, Orakzai, North Waziristan, Bajaur, South Waziristan and Tank have no water. Over 1,200 have no toilets and over 750 schools have no boundary walls.
As many as 27 percent, or 1,549 schools, were found closed or non-functional. The majority of these schools were for girls. The closed schools include 167 permanently closed, and the rest had been temporarily shut down. Mohmand, Kurram and Khyber have the most number of permanently closed or non-functional schools, while North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Bannu have the highest number of temporarily closed schools. The IMU found 33 schools were occupied partially or wholly by either the staff or landlords or law enforcement agencies.
As many as 1,549 schools were found closed. The majority of these schools were for girls
The survey found 192,243 students, or 38 percent of the total 508,937, enrolled in schools were absent. As many as 70 percent students in Lakki’s schools were absent. The number of absent students in Bannu stood at 60 percent in while 59 percent and 57 percent were absent in Tank and South Waziristan, respectively.
The report found 52 percent students absent in North Waziristan and Dera Ismail Khan while 45 percent students were absent in Khyber and Mohmand. Similarly, 38 percent were absent in Kohat and 35 percent in Peshawar. About 27 percent students were absent in Orakzai.
Presence of teachers was also found to be unsatisfactory in the survey, as about 18 percent of teachers were absent during visits of the IMU staff to schools, even though school managements were informed about them. Over 2,600 of 148,777 teachers in the merged districts were found absent during the visits of IMU staff to the schools.
About 21 percent teachers were absent in schools for girls. Areas where the highest number of teacher absence was noted were Lakki and Bannu (40 percent), followed by North Waziristan (34 percent). About 1,900 non-teaching staff of the total 7,374 was found absent. Over 50 percent of the non-teaching staff was absent in North Waziristan and in Bannu. In Mohmand, about 40 percent of the non-teaching staff was absent and about 30 percent was absent in Kohat and Lakki.
When asked about the government plans to overcome these shortcomings in the schools of the new districts, KP Minister for Elementary and Secondary Education Ziaullah Bangash said, “The IMU survey was aimed at getting an idea of the situation in the merged districts. The report of the survey has been shared with the federal government and we are planning a strategy based on the outcome of the IMU report,” Bangash said. He added that the government would reconstruct schools where needed and grants would be provided to ensure provision of basic facilities such as toilets, boundary walls, electricity and water.
“We will recruit 5,000 teachers in the merged districts. The IMU has been extended to the merged districts and its staff has been hired,” he said. He added that Rs22 billion had been allocated for development projects in the merged districts. “If this amount is utilised transparently, the people will see real change in merged districts in a year.”
The writer is a journalist based in Peshawar