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400 private schools in Swat shut down girls’ classes

PESHAWAR: About 400 private schools in Swat have announced to abandon girls’ education in their institutes in the wake of the deadline (Jan 15) given by the militants to discontinue the practice, depriving more than 40,000 students of their basic right to get education.

In addition, 84,248 girl students of state-run schools are unlikely to attend schools due to the fear of militants despite the resolve by the local administration to reopen the schools on March 1.

Maulana Fazlullah-led militants had asked all the government and private schools on December 24 to stop imparting female education by January 15. The announcement triggered an outcry from all and sundry, prompting the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s central spokesman, Maulvi Omar, to distance his movement from the decision of the Swat militants and said they would ask them to withdraw the threat.

Also, the private schools’ management appealed to the militants in black and white to take back their decision in the interest of thousands of girl students and hundreds of female teachers, most of them lone breadwinners of their families.

The Swat TTP reviewed the decision a couple of weeks ago at a meeting held at its headquarters in Peuchar with Maulana Fazlullah in the chair. They did not withdraw their threat, but softened their stance and allowed girls to attain education up to the fourth grade. However, the chief of the terrorists renewed the threat of bombing educational institutions if any school continued higher education for girls.

The expiry of the deadline would have no immediate repercussions due to the winter vacations at present. However, the private schools’ management, a body of 400 educational institutions including 20 colleges, has decided to discontinue the female education after the vacation despite assurances from the administration to provide security to their schools.

“The district coordination officer offered security to our schools during our meeting with him but we think it will not work,” the owner of a chain of institutes told The News. He said that security to schools could not ensure female education until complete peace was restored to the valley, now almost under the control of the militants, who have also entrenched in Barikot, a militant-free Tehsil. “Girls, their parents, teachers and even drivers transporting students to and from schools are frightened while the owners of buildings have also asked us to vacate their property in view of fear of damage due to bombing.

“Thus, posting a few personnel at schools is of no use. So, we have decided to close female sections in private institutes to avoid the militants’ wrath,” he said and hastened to add that they would restart female education only after the militants allowed them to do so.

Girl students are unlikely to appear in matriculation (9th and 10th) and intermediate examinations starting from March 17 and in April, respectively. When contacted, DCO Swat Shaukat Ali Yousafzai promised to secure private schools if they agreed to continue female education.

“From Landakay to Mingora, we can guarantee security,” he challenged, saying there were only 69 private institutions in Mingora city. He vowed to reopen the state-run schools after the vacations.

The militants had already destroyed 172 schools, 122 girls and 50 boys, depriving 40,646 students – 23,308 girls and 17,338 boys – of education. In addition, 18 schools have been occupied by the forces, which also deprived 7,039 students.
Source: The News
Date:1/16/2009

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