MINGORA: Schools reopened in Swat valley on Monday, but attendance was extremely low despite a truce between the government and militants, officials said.
“Our schools reopened today. The attendance was very poor. Only up to 10 per cent attended,” Swat education ministry official Sher Afzal said.
Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammad chief Maulana Sufi Mohammed, who has been tasked by the government to hold talks with militant leader Maulana Fazlullah, said the right of girls to attend school in the valley was still under discussion.
Schools reopened a week earlier than after the winter vacation, but Mr Afzal said many parents were unaware of the commencement date of the new term.
Syed Mohammad Javed, the top local government official, appealed for students to return to school, promising to accord them full security.
The government reopened all boys’ schools on Monday but only the primary section up to the fourth grade in girls’ schools, officials said.
A spokesman said attendance at private schools — all of which reopened — was only 40 per cent because of security fears.
“This is because of the recent (unstable) situation. Another reason is that many families are still frightened and thousands more left the valley because of the fighting,” said private schools association spokesman Ziauddin Yusufzai.
Residents said girls attended classes veiled after Maulana Fazlullah announced on his illegal radio station that girls could take examinations, but only after covering themselves according to Sharia.
Of the total 350,000 pupils registered in Swat, 250,000 are enrolled at government schools and 100,000 at private schools, said Mr Afzal.Militants have destroyed 191 schools in the valley, including 122 for girls, leaving 62,000 pupils without schools to go to, he said.
There has been no co-education in Swat for several years and schools have created separate sections for boys and girls.
Militant spokesman Muslim Khan said girls could go to school provided they observed purdah.
“We have sent proposals to the government to rebuild the schools, which will cost around 800 million rupees,Â” Mr Afzal said.
TNSM leader Sufi Mohammed said at a press conference in Mingora on Monday that the right of girls to attend school in Swat was still under discussion.
Asked whether the Taliban were planning to allow female education, he said that was “being negotiated.”