Combating illiteracy in merged areas through education, development; a way forward

Combating illiteracy in merged areas through education, development; a way forward

Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, Apr 30 (APP): Remained underprivileged throughout the known history before the independence of Pakistan, and even after for the last seven decades, the people of merged areas (erstwhile Fata) were deprived of quality education, health and development as no worthwhile effort was made to bring them into national mainstream.

This long negligence bred poverty, socio economic imbalances, unemployment and illiteracy, which led to dearth of economical and educational stakes and downfall of social values in merged areas.

The persistent unconducive environment, lackluster development work and poor investment in the education sector strengthened the roots of militancy and deteriorated the law and order situation in the area in past.

  The two-decade long militancy in erstwhile Fata had caused huge loss to the education sector and many students, especially females left schools and colleges due to repeated attacks by terrorists and militants.

Sighting education as the main hurdle in way of completion of their nefarious agenda, the anti state-elements blown up scores of educational institutions in the newly merged areas resulting in rise of students drop out ratio especially of girls in Khyber, Bajaur, Kurram, North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Mohmand, taking the number of out of school children to around one million in 2021.

“The anti-state elements tried to deprive the tribal children of their basic right of education but the successful military operations against terrorists followed by merger of FATA into KP in 2018 under the 25th constitutional amendment by the PMLN government and other pragmatic development measures foiled the bid and secured future of tribal youngsters,” said Ikhtair Wali Khan, Pakistan Muslim League-N spokesman and former member provincial assembly while talking to APP.

To rebuild the destroyed educational infrastructure including schools and colleges in merged areas, he said a multifaceted development program had been launched under accelerated implementation program (AIP) with special focus on building of educational infrastructure, provision of stipends to tribal students, transport and establishment of campuses of top educational colleges and universities at South Waziristan.

Syed Zainullah Shah, Chief Planning Officer/Special Secretary, Higher Education Department told APP that work on Education City at Barwan South Waziristan had been started, which would be completed with an estimated cost of around Rs2,772 million.

“The consultants have submitted their proposals for establishment of different campuses of top educational institutions and universities including agriculture, engineering, IT and vocational studies at South Waziristan, while a project management unit (PMU) has also been created for quick implementation of the mega project,” he said.

“The proposed Education City would be established on 7,000 kanal and additional land would also be procured for its expansion in future,” he added.

The UET Peshawar, Agriculture University of Science and Technology Peshawar, Swat University of Science and Technology, Shaheed Benazir  Bhutto University Peshawar and other top private sector universities had showed their willingness to establish their campuses at South Waziristan’s Education City, he underlined.

The government would provide land to the universities while they would complete construction work of their campuses with their own finances, he said.

Zainullah Shah said a public sector university at Barang tehsil of Bajaur district would be established with an estimated cost of around Rs1,000 million to provide quality education to tribal youth at their doorsteps. “Bajaur university’s feasibility has been completed and work on the project would start soon,” he said, adding the university would be established on an area of 4,000 kanal.

He said a mega‘ stipends project’ for merged areas’ students costing around Rs1,700 million had also been planned, under which scholarships would be provided to all the talented students of the public sector colleges and universities.

Under ‘transport for all’ project costing around Rs1,440 million, he said 46 hiace buses were provided to different colleges of merged areas to provide quality transport facilities to teachers and students under AIP, he added.

Shah further told that a public sector library was being constructed at Wana South Waziristan tribal district with an estimated cost of Rs20 million to help all those tribal graduates who wanted to appear in competitive examinations and research works.

“The library was the long awaited demand of tribal students of South Waziristan and every efforts were being made to complete it in next two to three years,” he said.

As result of successive governments’ pro education uplift measures, the number of male students had increased to 419,425, while female students to 219,833 during 2021-22 in merged areas against 406,857 male and 202,969 female in 2020-21 respectively, he mentioned.

According to BISP, over Rs40 billion scholarships have been dispersed among students so far since its inception under Taleemi Scholarship Program.

Under this landmark initiative, Rs1,500 stipend per quarter was being provided to each male student and Rs2,000 to each female student at primary level, Rs2,500 to each male student and Rs3,000 to each female student at secondary level and Rs3,500 to Rs4,000 to higher secondary schools students respectively.

  Zainullah Shah said a state-of-the art Cadet College at Wana district South Waziristan and Mohmand Cadet College in district Mohmand had been completed which had also start admitting students.

The first ever Fata university on 460 kanal land at Dara Adamkhel was also established where classes up to PhD level were commenced with 50pc subsidy on fees to all tribal students enrolled in eight different disciplines.

One library each was also being established at Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur, Kurram, Orakzai, North Waziristan and South Waziristan.

Meanwhile, as many as 10 new colleges were completed in merged areas raising its total number to 55, he said, adding 300 new lecturers and subject specialists were also recruited for 45 colleges.

Work on solarization of colleges costing around Rs1.6 billion was launched and Rs1.399 billion were earmarked to provide 5,500 internships to tribal students, he concluded.

(APP Feature Service)

APP Services