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Balochistan militancy devastates education system
The provincial government, responding to public demands for stepped-up security, vows to improve the situation.
By Abdul Ghani Kakar
QUETTA – Nazeer Ahmed Bangulzai was a typical student in the Awaran area of Balochistan Province, but militant threats have reached the point that they are blocking him from an education.
"My father is not letting me to go to school," the 10th-class student said. "He told me that armed men would kill me if they found me going to school."
This situation has repeated itself throughout the province, blocking thousands of young students from getting an education. And that's casting a shadow on the future for coming generations.
"Our future is moving ahead in darkness; someone should come forward to assist us in this calamitous situation so that we can continue our education without any fear," Nazeer said.
As the situation reaches the crisis point, Balochistan residents are calling for the provincial government to step up efforts to keep the school system functioning.
"The role of government is, primarily, in protecting educational institutions," Mohammad Ali, a schoolteacher in Noshki, told Central Asia Online. "If they [the schools] are destroyed by the militants, the government must ensure that these schools are rebuilt and the process of education continues without any further disruption."
Dropout rates pose a major challenge
Militant attacks on schools and on educators have forced roughly 70,000 children to leave school this year, according to officials. The terrorism has included barrages of gunfire at school buses.
Roughly 1.3m children throughout the province aren't going to school, Balochistan Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik said.
"A high dropout rate and poor access of children to school have emerged as the biggest challenges in the province," he said.
Observers accuse the militancy of being the chief culprit behind Balochistan's nation-leading illiteracy rate, A.N. Sabir, president of the Government Teachers Association Quetta, told Central Asia Online.
"The militants' biased attitude is shutting the doors of education ... and they want to keep the masses in the darkness of ignorance," Shantul Gurginari, a senior educator and former professor of history in Balochistan, said.
"It is a great conspiracy against Balochistan that anti-peace elements want to smash the entire system of education in the province," Ali said. "These militant groups are trying to keep the Baloch nation backward and illiterate ... making their youth easily susceptible to militancy."
Putting children back in school
The harsh situation contradicts what the residents want, analysts say.
"People want their children to be literate … but in reality there is no one to help them out," Khuzdar social worker Behram Rind told Central Asia Online. "In conflict areas, seeking an education might cost you your life."
The provincial government says it recognises the need to ensure safe access to schools and a safe learning environment.
"We are taking all possible measures to maintain law and order and to restore the educational system in the militancy-hit areas," Malik said.
The government is reviewing education-related policies and has allocated Rs. 61.3 billion (US $62m) to fix the problems, he said.
Reforms will include providing security for teachers, students and other stake-holders, Sabir said.
"It is the need of the hour to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism from education in Balochistan," he added.