PESHAWAR: Government schools in Kafoor Dheri area on the outskirts of the provincial capital have recorded massive dropout rates due to the frequent armed clashes between two groups over a land dispute during the last several months, teachers insist.
Schoolteachers along with education department officials and local elders on Monday met leaders of the warring parties as a jirga and requested them not to trade fire during school hours.
The visitors included Government Higher Secondary School Sufaid Sang principal Mohammad Rehman, Government High School Kafoor Dehri principal Ghaulam Murtaza, assistant sub-divisional education officer Ziaur Rehman, chairman of the Sufaid Sang village council Tajjamul Manshad and elder Gul Ahmad.
They went to Essakhel tribesmen as well as Khans of Kafoor Dheri and got the verbal assurance that there won’t be armed clashes during school hours.
Teachers, officials, elders take up issue with warring groups
The jirga members told them that the supplementary board examinations for matriculation would begin on Oct 24, so both sides should avoid gunfire during exams to ensure that candidates participate in them without trouble.
They insisted that even if candidates missed a single exam paper due to fighting, their yearlong studies would go to waste for no fault of theirs.
“There is a sense of panic and fear among students and teachers due to the frequent armed clashes between rival groups in the area,” a government school teacher posted to the area told Dawn.
He said that whenever the firing took place in the morning, the student attendance dropped to zero on that day as parents did not allow their children to go to school at the cost of their lives.
The teacher said that attendance in the Government Primary School Kafoor Dheri was 400 before the clashes began several months ago but it had dropped to 25 only.
He added that 686 students used to attend classes in the Government High School Kafoor Dheri before the two sides began trading fire but the number went down to around 90 last month.
“They [students] have collected their school leaving certificates due to the frequent clashes in the area,” he said.
The teacher said that attendance in other government schools in the area had also been affected by the situation.
He said the frequent firing incidents had turned the area “unsuitable” for in-person education.
“Children cannot study in the atmosphere of fear, which has affected the focus of teachers as well,” he said.
A student of the Government Higher Secondary School Kafoor Dheri told Dawn that whenever the gunfire started, the students whose classrooms were located on the second storey of the building came downstairs for their protection from the crossfire.
“Teachers have to adjust us [students] in classes on the ground floor and the students attending classes on the ground floor have to leave their chairs and sit on the floor to ensure they’re not struck by stray bullets,” he said.
Another teacher told Dawn that teachers of all classes had made WhatsApp groups of their students and whenever there was firing in the area early in the morning, the students checked with them whether or not to show up in the school.
A senior police official was approached by this correspondent for comments on the issue but he did not offer comments.
The residents said there had been a land dispute between the Essakhel tribesmen and Kafoor Dheri’s Khans for several years but it gained prominence after it emerged that a major land developer was going to launch a housing project in the area. The clash has caused several deaths from both sides.
The residents alleged that the property developer in question was fueling armed clashes in a bid to purchase the land at throwaway prices.
Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2023