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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

PAKISTAN: Militants still targeting schools in northwest

ISLAMABAD, 20 January 2010 (IRIN) - Attacks by militants on schools across northwestern Pakistan are continuing despite army operations in the area which began in May 2009 in Swat District.

Since late 2009, at least 10 schools have been targeted by Taliban militants in various parts of North West Frontier Province (NWFP), according to media reports.

Four children were killed in a September 2009 attack in Orakzai Agency allegedly in a bid to dissuade parents from sending children to school.

In the most recent attack on 18 January 2010 militants blew up a boys' primary school in the village of Ashraf Kalay in Khyber Agency, also near the Afghan border.

“We are still scared to send our children to school. Some have not been going for over a year,” Hazar Khankhel, 40, a father of four told IRIN from the town of Kalaya in Orakzai Agency, NWFP, near the Afghan border. His children had missed important exams, but he said: “We are simply too scared as life is more important even than education.”

In 2008 and the first few months of 2009 at least 200 girls’ schools were destroyed by militants.

Pakistan Red Crescent

Meanwhile, efforts are under way to revive the education system in areas affected by fighting between government forces and militants. In Swat, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society (PRCS) has begun to assist 15,000 children struggling to resume their education.

PRCS information officer Khalid-bin Majeed told IRIN they had distributed about 500 tents to damaged schools. “We are also giving out books, notebooks and stationery and hope to complete this process in three months.”

An education resource centre with access to computers and books is also to be set up by the PCRS in Swat.

“It is hard for us even to buy food, let alone clothes or other things,” said Azeem Ahmed, 30, from Mingora, the principal city of Swat. He said his two sons had “received the books they need for school” and will now be able to return to classes when schools re-open on 1 February.

Excitement, chaos

Children who have been out of school for months seem excited by the chance to return: “I am told classes will be in a tent. This is good. When we went back to our classes in November they were held in the open as the Taliban had burnt down the building and our hands got too cold to write neatly,” Aziza Bibi, 12, said from Mingora.

“Parents have still not been sending children to school in Swat, Dir and other conflict-hit areas [of NWFP] because of the lack of furniture in school buildings. Even school records of pupils were destroyed in the fighting,” Ibrash Pasha, who works in Dir District with the Khwendo Kor NGO which promotes education for girls, told IRIN.

“There is chaos in South Waziristan. Many of us are displaced; schools have been closed for months and now I have decided to get my children enrolled at schools here,” Fazal Mehsud, 35, a displaced person currently living in Peshawar, capital of NWFP, told IRIN. However, he said: “This is not easy as they have attended classes only erratically for many months and because it is impossible to get a referral from their teachers.”

kh/at/cb

Theme(s): (IRIN) Children, (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning, (IRIN) Education

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Copyright © IRIN 2010
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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