Ghost schools: Govt apathy makes getting a degree twice as hard in FATA

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As if the incessant bombing of educational institutes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) is not enough to dent the cause of education in the region, schools and colleges suffer from an acute shortage of teaching staff.

According to statistics available with the FATA Education Department, literacy rate in the tribal belt is 36.66% for males and 10.5% for females. The figures, officials claim, are actually much lower owing to the precarious law and order in some agencies, which has resulted in the destruction of schools and the occupation of educational buildings by security forces.

Rustam Khan is among scores of students in Fata who are forced to pursue their education outside the tribal areas.

In 2008 when Khan was in ninth grade, militancy spiked in the agency and forced students and teachers out of schools. Later in 2009, he was admitted to Government Degree College, Lakaro but that admission was only on paper as no teachers ever visited the institution. Most students, along with Khan, took private tuitions in Peshawar and sat their FSc exams from the college with the help of clerical staff who aided their efforts in enrolling for the exams. “I still do not know a single teacher or who the principal is,” says Khan.

Khan says he passed his BA exams under similar circumstances from Government Degree College, Ekka Ghund. He said affected students have tried to raise the issue of dysfunctional educational institutes at several forums, including the Fata Students Federation, but the dismal state of education continues.

A tribal leader in Safi tehsil of the agency, Gul Shah Khan, said there are 85 schools and a college in the tehsil, a majority of which are open only on paper and their staff receives salaries while sitting at home. Some are even working outside the country and still receive salaries. He said residents have appealed several times to education officials in Ghallanai, the agency’s headquarters, but they have yet to remedy the situation.

Gul said the area was supposedly cleared of militancy after an operation in 2011 but a functioning system of governance was nowhere to be seen. He pleaded with the authorities to make the high school and college in Lakaro functional.

In November last year, the local administration had decided to reopen all closed schools and a college in Safi following their closure due to law and order but residents claim the announcement was a mere eyewash and no action has been taken on the ground.

An official from the education department did not agree with the claims that teachers were absent and said all institutes were open.

However, an official at the FATA Education Department, Lal Sher Khan, said they have deployed staff of the college in Lakaro to other colleges in Ghallanai. He said there are 23 male and 12 female colleges in Fata, whereas colleges in Ghaljo in Orakzai Agency, Dogar in Kurram Agency and Lakaro are not working due to bad law and order. He said Government Degree College Kohi Sher Haider in Bara, Khyber Agency has been shifted to Peshawar whereas the one in Ladha, South Waziristan has been moved to Tank.

Source: The Express Tribune.