A remote valley of Chitral with a population of about 15,000 people is devoid of a school for girls, thanks to the apathy of the education department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Yarkhun is the northernmost valley of Upper Chitral bordering the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan.

A government middle school for girls is located in Bang village. However, north of Bang, there is no public-sector school for girls in the 48 villages located on both sides of Yarkhun River and stretching over 80km up to Broghil, the last settlement on the Afghan border.

According to the local people, neither the education department nor the elected representatives have paid any heed to their longstanding demand for a girls’ school in the area.

Shahzada Ibrahim, a resident of Pardan and president of Punar Local Support Organisation (LSO), said the villages were located at a distance from each other, with many not even having a school for boys.

Girl students as young as five to 10 years have to walk for at least 10 kilometres every day to attend classes in the boys’ schools in distant villages, he said.

Mr Ibrahim regretted that in other areas of Chitral there were more than one school for both girls and boys in each village but upper Yarkhun was an exception.

Mehboob Ali, a resident of Yarkhun Lasht, said an NGO from Gilgit-Baltistan had established nine schools in Broghil and one intermediate college in his village in 2011.

However, the government froze the accounts of the NGO two years ago over some legal issue. As a result, the institutions were closed down.

There were 544 students in the schools and college with 46 teaching and non-teaching staff. Later, the local communities started running the schools with support from AKES.

Wali Khan of Sholkoch said girls from his village had to go to a boys’ school located in Zupu village across Yarkhun River every day. Commuting between the village and the school on foot has a negative impact on their health, he added.

Azam Khan, another resident, said due to poverty the majority of the locals could not afford sending their daughters to a few private schools in the area or to major towns.

“As a result, the students have to discontinue their education after passing the primary level in boys’ schools,” he regretted.

Former Yarkhun union council nazim Farman Jaffar said the middle school in Bang catered to the whole valley of Yarkhun while the area had no high school for girls.

He said many villages in lower Yarkhun had no middle schools, as a result of which, girls found it difficult to continue their education after primary level.

When contacted, District Education Officer (female) Ghazala Anjum told Dawn that recommendations for the establishment of new schools in Patrangaz, Zupu and Shoosht villages of upper Yarkhun had been sent to the provincial education department.

She said the establishment of two new schools, one each in Warimun in Torkhow and Shangush in Oveer, and the upgradation of a primary school in Charun had been approved this year.

However, none of these schools are located in the remote Yarkhun valley.

Sources in the district education department said new schools were opened either on the recommendation of the education department or the sitting member of the provincial assembly (MPA) under their discretionary funds.

But due to absence of political representation, the sitting and all former MPAs ignored Yarkhun and spent funds allocated for the establishment and upgradation of schools in their own areas.

In the past, even no recommendation was made to set up a girls’ school in Yarkhun but the recent requests forwarded by the district education department have been ignored.

Despite repeated requests, MPA Maulana Hidayatur Rehman did not provide details about establishment of new schools and upgradation of the existing ones during the last two years.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021

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