79pc girls quit primary schools in tribal districts: study

Updated Dec 17 2018


North Waziristan has the highest dropout rate. — File photo
North Waziristan has the highest dropout rate. — File photo

PESHAWAR: Only one-fifth of the girls enrolled in public sector schools in seven districts of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) continue their education from preparatory class till Class V, as overall 73 per cent students — 69pc boys and 79pc girls — quit schools during the early years of education, an official report of government educational institutions in the region bordering Afghanistan shows.

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Situation at the middle and secondary school levels is also very discouraging as dropout rate of girls at these stages is 50pc, according to the 102-page statistical report compiled by the Education Management Information System (EMIS), directorate of education of newly merged tribal districts.

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The dropout rate in the militancy-affected North Waziristan district is 63pc (73pc among girls), which is the highest among the seven districts, but the report does not highlight reasons behind the high dropout rate.

North Waziristan has the highest dropout rate

The tribal districts have 5,890 schools in the public sector with a total enrolment of 677,157 students. While current budget for education is Rs12 billion and Rs5 billion development budget including grant-in-aid, the official study portrays a bleak picture of the state of education in the public sector schools with most of the schools in the districts lying without electricity, drinking water facility and toilets. Only 43pc schools have electricity, 45.2pc have drinking water facility, 45pc have toilets and 70pc schools have boundary walls, the EMIS study indicates.

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The report, which is yet to be made public, suggests that the number of teachers in public sector educational institutions in these districts is on the decline and there is acute shortage of teachers. Total number of teachers in schools was 20,709 in 2009-10 which has reduced to 18,621 in 2017-18.

“There is shortage of teachers and other technical staff in tribal districts due to slow recruitment process,” said an official dealing with the education sector in the area.

The official said nearly 5,000 seats of teachers and technical staff (lab assistants) in the schools had been lying vacant with an unofficial ban on the recruitment of teachers in the former Fata. The directorate of education had requested the federal government many a time to fill these posts and provide fresh staff without success.

According to the report, the total number of sanctioned posts of teachers at the primary, middle and secondary levels is 22,030 but the existing strength of teachers is 18,621. It shows that student-teacher ratio is 1/59 at the primary school level.

As the EMIS study does not highlight reasons behind high dropout rate where literacy rate is claimed to be 33.3pc (49.7pc among male and 12.7pc among female), officials concerned said the prime reason of the dropout at primary level was “non-qualified and outdated” teachers who could not teach new syllabus designed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Textbook Board.

“Officials at different forums blame the high dropout rate on militancy, insecurity and displacement to justify their argument. But these are lame excuses and basic reasons are unqualified teachers and overcrowded classrooms,” the official said.

The KP government had introduced all textbooks in English for primary level in public sector schools. These textbooks were also introduced in schools in former Fata. Teachers in tribal belt are unable to follow new teaching methods and textbooks.

“Majority of the teachers like me cannot understand newly introduced textbooks. I feel suffocation because we can’t teach these new textbooks and waiting for retirement,” said a female teacher from a tribal district.

The provincial government had fixed teacher-students ratio at 1/40, with six teachers and six classrooms for primary schools. On the contrary, primary schools still have two rooms and one veranda and no criterion was being followed for the teacher-students ratio.

“Unfortunately, it seems tribal districts are still passing through the 1940s as over 100 students are taught in two small rooms by two teachers. The government should introduce national level policy of 1/40 teacher-student ratio,” said the official.

Officials said that insurgency and military operations took heavy toll on the education sector in the tribal belt. Over 1,500 schools were destroyed during the last one decade. A large number of teachers had retired and the government did not fill vacant posts that created a big gap. On the other hand, schools were not provided allied facilities.

Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2018