PESHAWAR, July 13: Enrolment has been increased in the primary schools in militancy-hit Bajaur Agency during the past two years where food items and books are distributed among students to encourage parents to send their children to educational institutions.

The World Food Programme funded ‘Back to school, stay in school’ project was launched after a military operation in the region in April 2011 and repatriation of the internally displaced persons.

The data compiled by the agency education office in Bajaur shows that total enrollment of boys and girls in the state-run primary schools was 102,922 in 2010-11 that reached 128,085 in 2011-12. Other non-governmental organisations are distributing uniforms, shoes and teaching kits free of cost among students to motivate parents to send their children to schools.

Educational institutions were reopened after restoration of government’s in the area. Officials have asked authorities in Peshawar to build additional rooms in the schools or provide tents to them to accommodate the newly enrolled students as 96 schools were damaged by militants in the tribal region.

Muslim Khan, who is dealing with schools in Bajaur, said that approximately 35,000 children had yet to be enrolled because food incentive programme had not been extended to some areas of the agency.

“These children can also be enrolled if food package is introduced in the remaining far flung areas,” he said, adding that his office had requested directorate of education in Peshawar to construct additional rooms or provide tents to them to accommodate the children.

Under the programme, launched in Bajaur Agency last year, each child is given 75-gram picket of high energy biscuits in the school daily and 4.50 litres edible oil after two months.

Every child is required to complete 22 regular attendances in the school. The teachers are also provided oil. Besides, local authorities have to ensure enrollment of at least 50 children in a school where children have access to basic facilities including safe drinking water, bathrooms and boundary walls.

The food assistance programme has also been extended to other tribal agencies excluding North Waziristan Agency. Fata has the lowest literacy rate in Pakistan where 17 per cent of the total population is literate, according to 1998 general census.

WFP spokesperson Amjad Jamal said that food assistance programme in schools would continue till the end of current year and the UN agency had proposed to continue it till 2015.

He said that WFP was currently spending $263 million on distribution of food items in Pakistan and its major chunk was spent on distribution of food supplement in schools.

“Children become the first victims of the conflict and when livelihood is affected parents pull out their children of the schools,” he said, adding that WPF was exclusively focusing on Fata, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.“The main objectives of the programme are to protect children from hunger and motivate the parents to send their children to schools to continue their education,” he said, adding that owing to security situation blanket cover could not be provided to the entire agency.

Officials said that in some areas food packages were distributed in selected schools that prompted parents to withdraw their children from the schools where no food assistance was provided to the students.

Lal Zada, education officer in Orakzai Agency, told Dawn that food assistance programme was started in 37 schools out of 481 in the area in December 2011. “A total 3,500 boys and girls are presently receiving biscuits and cooking oil,” he said.

He said that parents were sending their children to those schools where food items were distributed. He said that educational institutions in other two tehsils had not been opened because of militancy.

“We have requested the UN to extend the programme to other schools in lower tehsil of Orakzai Agency to avoid heart burning,” he said, adding that sometimes it created problems for the local authorities.

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