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Attendance at Swat girls’ schools plummets after bombing, threats

* Schools lack convincing security arrangements
* District nazim says govts writ has ceased to exist
* DCO says students, teachers are scared

PESHAWAR: The bombing of a girls school and a deluge of threatening letters issued to numerous other girls schools by militants in Swat district have forced girls and their teachers to stay away from school premises, Daily Times learnt on Wednesday.

A Swat district Education Department official told Daily Times that girl schools in the area were receiving a deluge of threatening letters and menacing people kept roaming around the schools.

He said attendance at girls schools had dropped to nearly 20-25 percent and was dropping further. The government has officially closed only one school, he said: the Government Girls Higher Secondary School Kabal which was bombed. In the other schools, teachers and students had stopped attending after receiving threats, but the administration had asked them to reopen the schools, he added.

“Officially, a school is closed when the department issues a notice, but in this case the teachers and students have stopped attending out of fear,” he said.

No security arrangements: The girls schools in the district only have a chowkidar, the Education Department official said. It is the government’s job to ensure security at schools and the Education Department has been able to do nothing in this regard, he added.

“We had a meeting with the district coordination officer on Tuesday, but he said the administration could only provide guns to the chowkidars,” he said. “What can a chowkidar do when militants are attacking the army and police?”

‘Govt’s writ has ceased to exist’: Swat District Naizm Nasir Jamal moved to Islamabad after an attempt was made on his life earlier this year. Speaking to Daily Times, he said, “If militants are killing people, how can they tolerate schools?”

Jamal held the provincial government responsible for the deteriorating situation in the district, saying that aside from himself, Matta Tehsil Nazim Abdul Jabbar Khan was also attacked recently. The government’s writ had ceased to exist in Swat, he said.

Schoolteacher Ibrahim told Daily Times that law and order was deteriorating with each passing day and militants might start targeting boys schools next.

He said women already lagged behind in education and the terrorists’ activities would adversely affect the future of the children and the area.

Mingora resident Naeeem said his daughter, a class 9 student, had started wearing such a big full-body veil that even her peers had made fun of her.

He criticised the federal, provincial and district governments for failing to maintain law and order. He said that the situation in Swat had started deteriorating after pirate FM radio stations went on air. The government could have put a stop to this, but did nothing, he said.

Students, teachers are scared: Swat District Coordination Officer Syed Mohammand Javed told Daily Times: “We have called a meeting of all principals and headmasters of boys and girls schools in the district. We have decided not to close the schools, and that chowkidars will guard them.”

He said only two schools had been closed due to bomb blasts so far. However, he admitted that attendance at schools had dropped significantly. “We are trying to encourage women teachers and students to come to school, this is why attendance was better on Wednesday compared to the past two days.”

“We will not close down schools but people are afraid of sending their children to school,” he said.

Javed said authorities had not yet been able to trace those issuing threatening letters to schools.

There are at least 558 girls schools in Swat. About 90,000 girls in the district study in four higher secondary schools, 20 high schools, 45 middle and nearly 489 primary schools.
Source: Daily Times