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400 Fata schools facing closure under rationalisation plan

400 Fata schools facing closure under rationalisation plan

PESHAWAR: More than 400 schools in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas are likely to be closed down in the name of ‘enhancing quality education’ in the region, officials said.

The proposed ‘rationalisation plan’ is aimed at saving cash resources and improving the quality of education in Fata, where hundreds of schools and other educational institutions were destroyed in militancy.

The plan is likely to be implemented in health and livestock sectors, too, sources said.

The Fata directorate of education has collected data of schools with less than 60 enrolment rate.

The execution of the rationalisation plan is subject to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor’s approval.

If the plan is approved, then these schools will be closed down and that their students, both boys and girls, and teachers will be shifted to the nearest schools, said an official in the know.

The official said the governor would be briefed about pros and cons of the plan before he decided about its implementation.

He told Dawn that hundreds of schools had been established in Fata needlessly and that billions of rupees were wasted on putting up their buildings.

“The purpose of opening such schools was not to educate people but to bribe elders and get commission,” he said.

“Nobody bothers to ask the directorate of education if the schools are opened on need basis or otherwise. The concerned political agents include schemes in annual development programme and civil secretariat releases funds,” he said, adding that same was the case with health, livestock and other sectors.

Officials said the approved prescribed criteria across the country was three primary schools for one middle school and two middle schools for one high school. In tribal area, they said this criterion had not been followed and political authorities recommended schemes in all sectors including health, education and livestock.

“There are several examples in the tribal agencies where 11 primary schools have been established within two kilometers radius,” he said.

He said one high school for boys, one high school for girls, one Basic Health Unit and one unit of livestock had been constructed near the house of an influential elder in Frontier Region Tank.

The Fata schools total 5,572 with around 574,512 boys and girls enrolled there.

The militancy had cast a pall of shadow over education sector in the tribal area. Militants had blown up schools mostly in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies. The secretariat is spending 38 per cent of the ADP on education in Fata.

Officials said more than 1,500 schools were destroyed in across Fata of which 1100 buildings had been reconstructed.

They said the major chunk of development budget had been spent on the reconstruction of school buildings.

Currently, 50 schools are being reconstructed in North Waziristan Agency and 36 schools in South Waziristan Agency.

According to the plan, buildings will be abandoned or to be handed over to the people who provided piece of land free of cost if the plan is approved.

A civil engineer said the approved cost of three-room school was Rs6.5 million and closure of 400 schools would cause over Rs2 billion loss to the exchequer if the rationalisation plan was implemented.

Another official said schools had been identified in different tribal agencies where only 30 girls had been enrolled in one primary school and strength of teachers was four apart from two class-IV employees.

A senior teacher from a tribal agency said the growing number of private sector schools was one of the factors of low enrolment in the government run schools.

She said the number of students in the government schools in different areas decreased due to the distrust on the government’s education system and the growth of private schools.

“Parents enroll children in the playgroup in the government schools and when they grow up a little they shifted them to English medium schools which reduced the enrollment,” she said.

The number of private schools and colleges is increasing rapidly. According to reports, 140 private schools have been opened in Khyber Agency, 70 in Kurram Agency and 54 in Bajaur Agency.

Schools in private sector have also been established in Mohmand Agency and other areas of Fata.

Published in Dawn, November 24th, 2015

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