PESHAWAR: About half a million girls between the ages of five and 14 are out of school in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
According to a statistical report based on the annual education census (2015-16) carried out by the Fata Secretariat’s Directorate of Education, the total number of children of school going age not enrolled in an educational institution was 821,581, of whom 504,965 were girls.
The report revealed that the number of out-of-school children five to nine years of age was 281,450, including 71,854 boys and 209,596 girls. The number for the 10-14 years age group was 540,148, including 244,779 boys and 295,369 girls.
The total population of children between the ages of five and nine in the region was 881,739, including 458,289 boys and 423,450 girls. Of them 600,289 were enrolled in educational institutions – 467,923 in government schools, 87,837 are in private institutes and 44,529 in seminaries.
The total population of 10 to 14 years’ old children in the tribal agencies and Frontier Regions was 652,499, comprising 339,489 boys and 313,010 girls.
Only 112,351 of them – 94,710 boys and 17,641 girls – were students, with 73,528 enrolled in government schools, 38,116 in private schools and 708 in seminaries.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Riaz Afridi, a resident of Khyber Agency, said hundreds of schools in the tribal areas were non-functional and thousands lacked basic facilities.
He said the main reasons behind the high ratio of out-of-school children were the lack of facilities and shortage of teachers. “Parents never allow their children to go to a school where there are no basic facilities for them and that is run by a single teacher for over 100 students,” Afridi said.
He said the perception that the tribal people did not allow their children to attend school was wrong. They now were well aware of the importance of education and wanted their children to study if the facilities were available, he said.
He called upon the government to provide basic facilities in schools and appoint more male and female teachers in them.
UNDP Project Coordinator Abdul Haseeb told The Express Tribune that the United Nations Development Agency was working in partnership with the government for the rehabilitation of schools in Fata that had been damaged because of militancy.
He said the work carried out in selected schools in Fata and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa through UNDP partners included construction of one or two additional classrooms, repair of existing rooms, electrification, land development, and rehabilitation of boundary walls, toilet blocks, sewerage drains, water supply and flag posts.
He said the organisation had provided 7,560 pairs of benches and desks for children, 567 chairs and 378 tables for teachers and 378 cupboards for 189 schools. The target for the furniture distribution, funded by USAID, was 300 schools, he said.
Schoolbags, notebooks, stationery, teaching kits, charts and black and green boards had been provided to 28,800 students of rehabilitated schools, he said.
The UNDP official said an enrolment campaign for out-of-school children in targetted areas of Fata was launched on August 16 and would continue till September 30. A campaign was also carried out in April.