24 August, 2014 / Shawwal 27, 1435

Children affected by 2005 earthquake still await reconstruction of their schools. — File Photo
Children affected by 2005 earthquake still await reconstruction of their schools. — File Photo

PESHAWAR: Over 600 schools ‘unnecessarily’ pulled down by contractors soon after the Oct 2005 devastating earthquake in Hazara division have been awaiting reconstruction for around seven years, according to the relevant officials.

Neither the successive provincial and federal governments allocated any funds for the purpose nor did donors pay any attention towards it.

Officials said 612 schools were intact and in usable condition after the 2005 earthquake but were demolished by contractors to get better payments for the damaged school flattening exercise.

They said after the 2005 earthquake, the then government contracted some firms to remove debris of damaged schools but the contractors, besides doing the assigned task, also pulled down the schools, which were either undamaged or slightly damaged.

According to them, the cost of the school reconstruction was estimated seven years ago to be Rs3 billion but the government later failed to arrange the amount.

Officials said the number of such schools was 322 in Mansehra, 153 in Battagram, 62 in Abbottabad and 75 in Shangla.

They said these schools were called ‘non-strategy schools’ because the education department learned about them after the government planned reconstruction of the schools destroyed by earthquake.

According to officials, prior to the start of the reconstruction process, the elementary and secondary education department conducted a survey to learn about completely and partially damaged schools in the calamity-hit division.

However, the undamaged schools demolished by the contractors were not part of the collected data because at the time of data collection, the buildings of those schools were in place. They were pulled down afterwards.

The government has made temporary arrangements for the students as such schools have been established in the tents and rented buildings, said an executive district officer education.

He said for an educational institution, building was one of the physical requirements, while when there was no building and students were sitting inside the tents the educational atmosphere would definitely be disturbed.

The EDO said girl students and their teachers feel insecure while studying in a place with no boundary wall and roof.

He said renting buildings in the earthquake-hit areas of Hazara division was a very expensive option.

MPA from Abbottabad Javed Abbasi told Dawn that he and other MPAs from Hazara division repeatedly raised the issue of the destruction of undamaged schools on the floor of the House, but to no avail.

“Those schools were either undamaged or slightly damaged that could have repaired by utilising of a small amount of money,” he said.

The MPA said provincial Chief Minister Ameer Haider Khan Hoti had promised to raise the matter with the federal government but that didn’t happen.

When contacted, elementary and secondary education minister Sardar Hussain Babak said the schools, which remained unaffected or slightly affected by the earthquake were demolished during the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal government.

“The MMA government should have stopped the dismantling of such schools,” he said.

The minister said the ANP-led provincial government was the first to take notice of the demolitions after collecting their data.

He said the government had been negotiating the reconstruction of schools with the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority and donors.

“I am hopeful that the funds will be secured soon,” he said.

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