PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s Rs2.6 billion programme for giving monthly stipends to the students of government schools in merged tribal districts is still in the doldrums despite lapse of about two years.
Since its approval in the Annual Development Programme (ADP) for the fiscal year 2019-20 the Elementary and Secondary Education (E&SE) Department has been deliberating only on how to execute the stipend scheme, according to sources.
The programme has been funded by the federal government under the Accelerated Implementation Programme to encourage the students’ enrolment and decrease the number of out-of-school children in the militancy-hit erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas, they said.
The seven merged districts include Khyber, Mohmand, Bajaur, Kurram, Orakzai, South Waziristan and North Waziristan.
The programme was approved in ADP of fiscal year 2019-20
Under the programme, Rs1,000 monthly stipend would be given to each of the girl students from nursery to the secondary classes and Rs500 to be paid to each of the boys in primary schools and Rs1,000 to the students of secondary classes.
The non-implementation of the scheme has deprived 631,376 students, including 174,032 girls, of government schools from the planned stipend.
According to official data of the E&SE Department, of the total students in government schools 130,322 students are enrolled in Bajaur district, 60,962 in Mohmand, 108,609 Khyber, 36,516 Orakzai, 75,192 Kurram, 85,011 North Waziristan and 45661 South Waziristan besides those in different subdivisions, including 14,774 enrolled in Hassankhel subdivision, 174,59 Darra Adamkhel, 26,544 Wazir, 7,008 Bitani, 13,265 Jandola and 10,053 in Darra Zinda subdivision.
Minister for E&SE Department Shahram Khan Tarakai was not available for comments. However, a senior official of the education department told Dawn that the officials deliberated upon several ways for disbursement of the stipend, but found them unfeasible in the current situation in erstwhile Fata.
He said different stipend programmes had been running in the settled districts of the province since long which were either disbursed through Pakistan Post’s regional offices or banks.
The official said that since Pakistan Post had not established its offices in the merged districts the officials concerned dropped the idea of disbursement of stipend through Pakistan Post.
The other option for payment to the students was through Easypaisa, a money transfer service of cellular companies.
He said this idea was also dropped for time being as most of the areas of merged districts lacked mobile phone services and internet facility.
He said the last option left with the education department was that of banks.
“The few banks existing in the targeted districts might not cater to the needs of students spread over a large area of the tribal region,” the official said.
He said the education department had recently floated a tender in the newspapers for hiring banks and mobile phone companies for the purpose.
In response, different banks and mobile companies applied for the contract of which the education department has shortlisted three banks and two mobile companies, he said.
Lack of certified data of enrolled students in the government schools is another reason for the delay in execution of the stipend programme, he said, adding the education department had started work on cross-checking the available data.
An education expert told Dawn that impact assessments in Punjab regarding such stipend programme showed that female enrolment had increased in the government schools.
He said evidence collected from the household survey data also revealed that dropout rate had decreased in the government schools after stipends were provided to poor students.
The expert said there was some evidence the stipend programmes would also be useful in merged areas. He said education sector analysis of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had also revealed that students of poor background were more vulnerable to dropping out compared to well-off students.
If the provincial government successfully launched the stipend programme in the merged districts, it would definitely improve the dropout rate, which currently stands at about 68 per cent at the primary level and around 50 per cent at the secondary level.
Published in Dawn, April 5th, 2021