ISLAMABAD, Dec 8: Military operations often result in collateral damage, and in some instances, the loss has lasting impact on the affected population.
This is what transpired in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), where for the past decade, the military is fighting militants. In addition to the displacement of the local population, the education sector has suffered the most.
According to the latest figures compiled by the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions (Safron) headed by Federal Minister Lt-Gen (retired) Qadir Baloch, a total of 1,029 educational institutions were lying nonfunctional in Fata largely due to the poor security situation there.
Of these, 947 educational institutions, including schools and colleges, were closed or damaged because of the fights between the army and militants over the past many years.
The ministry estimates that for the reconstruction of fully damaged schools and colleges, it needed Rs1,858 million while another Rs684 million were required to rebuild the partially damaged educational institutions.
The ministry’s record shows 122 educational institutions which have been reconstructed and rehabilitated during the financial year 2012-13. The government has now set the target to restore 74 institutions in the ongoing financial year.
Safron has also listed five leading causes for the destruction or closing down of schools and colleges in Fata.
These causes are shown in the table along with the number of institutions affected.
Military operations have been termed the leading cause for the collapse of the educational infrastructure in the region. A total of 947 institutions have become nonfunctional because of the clashes.
Sectarian strife has also a fair share in the closing down of schools and colleges.
According to the ministry, the third major cause is the non-availability of teachers due to which 27 schools and colleges are not being run in the affected region.
Besides bombing schools, militants have also targeted teachers scaring them away.
Similarly, regular floods in the past three years in the region have also affected the infrastructure, and Safron statistics show that 16 schools have been damaged as a result.
Local disputes between various tribes have compounded the problem as armed clashes between rival tribes have led to closure of some institutions.
In total, Bajaur Agency has suffered the most as 94 educational institutions have become dysfunctional there.
Mohmand Agency follows with 92 institutions, Kurram Agency 61, Khyber Agency 59, South Waziristan 36, Orakzai Agency 34 and finally North Waziristan with 33 damaged institutions.
However, a serving military official argues that when the army was sent to the region in 2004-05, most of the schools and colleges were already dysfunctional due to the militants’ unchecked presence.
“Of course, when there is a full-fledged fight, such damages do occur,” the official said.
Refusing to come on record, the official contended that except for North Waziristan, the rest of the agencies had been cleared of militants and it was now time that the civil administration came in and played its role in bringing life back to the affected schools and colleges.
Federal Minister for Safron Lt-Gen (retired) Qadir Baloch was not available for his comments to explain how the federal government intended to reconstruct and rehabilitate the education sector in the area.
It may be recalled here that during the previous PPP government, several legislators of both houses of the parliament showed that their development funds had been spent on various schemes in Fata.
However, how much of these grants actually translated into something productive on ground is to be determined.