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Report on literacy reveals alarming situation: Kohistan district has only one girl in class X

PESHAWAR, Sept 10: A report of the NWFP Schools and Literacy Department reveals that only one girl student is enrolled at matriculation level in the remote Kohistan district where drop-out rate at public sector schools is registered as 72.87 per cent.

The annual report prepared by the Education Management Information System (EMIS) further disclosed that three girls had been enrolled in class 9th and 20 girls in class 8th in the entire district with total 210,628 female population (according to 1998 census report).

Figures show 85 per cent drop-out rate among girls at the middle level and 88.58 per cent at class 5th level.

Drop-out rate among boys is also very high and 72.52 per cent boys left schools before reaching the secondary level in the district which has a total population of 472,570 people.

Officials of the education department acknowledged that despite the fact the provincial government in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP) had been running various activities could not encourage parents to send their children to schools in the district.

"Kohistan district is a hopeless case for us and for many reasons parents avoid sending their children to schools," observed an official of the education department.

He said that parents sent their children to schools when they received oil and money, otherwise they did not come.

The government and the WFP had been running 'food for education programme' since 1996 and provide 4.50 kilogram edible oil to each school-going girl every month at the primary level and women teachers are also receiving the same package to discourage absenteeism in schools. Apart from this, boys and girls studying in class 6th, 7th and 8th are regularly paid Rs200 monthly stipend.

The number of schools for boys and girls in the public sector is 1,164, of which 152 had been closed due to numerous reasons like non availability of teaching staff.

There is only one high school for girls in the district.

Majority of the schools are without basic facilities, such as drinking water and toilets.

Few years ago the government brought some 50 girls from Kohistan to Swat district to complete their secondary school education.

The programme aimed at recruiting local people and promoting community awareness. They were provided accommodation facilities.

But 22 girls had gone back without completing their education, officials said.

Citing major reasons for high drop-out rate and low literacy in the district, officials said that majority of the people regularly migrated in summer and winter and non availability of local staff.

They said that girl education was a traditionally a taboo and people avoided sending them to school.

Officials said that local women educationists were not available in Kohistan and the department had to recruit non-local women teachers in this underdeveloped district.

They said that non-local women teachers were encouraged to marry with local residents in order to solve the problem of shortage of teaching staff and promote women education.

"It was hoped that this practice would encourage the women education, but unfortunately it didn't," said an official.

He said that the women teachers, who had married in the local communities, forbad them (their wives) from teaching.

"No body in the Kohistani community is ready to break this taboo and it can take years and years," the official remarked.

The government has placed Kohistan in the category of hard areas in the province and announced certain incentives for the recruitment of locals. Under the programme local people having secondary level qualifications are eligible for recruitment in primary and middle schools.

Officials said that despite incentives local staff was not available.

The government has started construction of a degree college for boys and a hostel for women staff in Dassu, the district headquarters to solve the accommodation problem. Dawn
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