SHANGLA: Around 550 girl students in Shangla district quit education halfway every year for various reasons, including inaccessibility, absence of schools, poverty and early marriages, according to sources in the district education department.

They said that roughly 22,564 girls between 4 and 9 years of age were out of school in the district.

“I wanted to get education and become a doctor, but it seems my dream would not come true because after promotion to grade 6th, I could not continue my studies due to absence of school in our village,” Samreen, 12, said.

Sources say about 550 girls quit education every year for different reasons

Like Samreen, over 550 girl students of the primary, middle and secondary schools quit education every year in the district for different reasons.

Samreen stated that 10 of her other fellows had also stopped getting education because they could not afford transportation and other charges to get admission in a distant middle school.

According to the district education department, about 3,828 girls are presently enrolled in the secondary schools and 2,505 in primary schools.

The record says that for girls there are 176 primary schools and 34 middle, high and higher secondary schools in the district.

It shows that 374 teachers are appointed in the primary section and 244 in the middle, high and higher secondary schools. They also include 38 subject specialists while over 100 posts are vacant in these schools.

The sources said that about 22,564 girls between age 5 and 9 years were out of school in the district and yearly dropout rate at primary level stood at 519 and for upper classes it was 139.

According to the record of education department’s planning and development wing, of 89 partially damaged schools in 2005 earthquake 45 schools were demolished and the sites handed over to Erra. Of these 45, six schools are still under construction.

Another 28 schools are being built under ADP, in which only two buildings have been completed and the rest of schools awaiting completion while facing funds shortage.

Project manager at the district reconstruction unit of Erra, Mohammad Jaffar, stated that they had handed over 46 schools to the department concerned while five others were under construction.

Answering a question, he said that work on seven girls school was suspended because of a dispute with Nespak. “The contractor has done 30 to 35 per cent work on the said schools. However, fresh tenders might be issued once the dispute is resolved,” he said.

Due to absence of infrastructure, the students are receiving education either under open sky or in tents.

Ikramullah, assistant district education officer, said that students in upper parts of the district were getting education in vulnerable buildings as pace of work on these schools was slow.

Sources said that the department had released Rs5.6 million to the schools in 2019 for petty repairs. They said that due to poor monitoring funds were misappropriated at 15 schools where the department had initiated inquiries.

Zainab, a monitor of the Independent Monitoring Unit, said there were still cultural barriers in the way of girls education in the district. She claimed that in some cases misappropriation was noted in parent-teacher councils funds.

Tahsin, a teacher, said that early marriages, seasonal migration of families, lack of interest of parents and conservative mindset were also responsible for high dropout rate among girls.

DEO (male), Amin, said that 2,304 girls students were enrolled in the boys primary schools.

DEO (female) Zubaida Khatak, told this scribe that poverty and inaccessibility were the main reasons for girls’ dropout.

“As priority, we have allocated 70 per cent of the budget for girls education and the rest 30 per cent for boys,” said KP information minister Shaukat Yousafzai.

He said that out-of-school children would be enrolled in private schools under public-private partnership policy.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019