An ambitious student enrolment drive is underway in Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) and frontier regions (FR), aimed at bringing 200,000 children to schools.
FATA Directorate of Education kick started the on Friday and will continue with the effort until the end of this calendar year. The campaign has been initiated under the Free and Compulsory Education Act 2012 that guarantees free of cost and compulsory education to all children below the age of 16.
Authorities in charge of the campaign are offering stipends and cash prizes for talented students and position holders who opt to join schools across the region. Besides, the government has already committed the provision of free-of-cost books and stationery items for students at the primary and secondary levels of education. The move can be a great motivator for students from impoverished families who otherwise have to opt for work in order to financially support their families.
Pakistan is among nine countries that have the most number of out-of-school children at the primary level, or of age 5-9. In 2016, a report by Global Education Monitoring (GEM) said 5.6 million primary-aged children remained out of schools across Pakistan.
Children’s education in FATA in particular has had to suffer immensely owing to almost a decade of violence, terrorist attacks and military operations. Schools, especially those for girls, remained prime targets of terrorists. As a result, hundreds of schools across FATA were razed to the ground in violent attacks, leaving thousands of children without access to education institutes.
Until today, lack of access to schools, along with extreme poverty, remains a key factor contributing to the vast population of out of school children across FATA.
Other reasons for low enrolment in FATA schools include long distances to school, shortage of teachers, lack of facilities at schools like potable water and toilets and a general lack of awareness about the importance of education.