Fear of Taliban: In Swat, 400 private schools close girls’ classes

January 16th, 2009 - 3:04 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanIslamabad, Jan 16 (IANS) Bowing to a Taliban diktat, some 400 private schools in the picturesque but restive Swat Valley in Pakistan’s northwest have discontinued girls’ classes, depriving more than 40,000 students of their basic right to education. Additionally, 84,248 girl students of state-run institutions are unlikely to attend school due to the fear of Taliban militants, who now control the entire area, despite the resolve of the local administration to reopen the schools March 1, The News reported Friday.

The Taliban, led by Maulana Fazlullah-led militants, had Dec 24 asked all government and private schools to close down girls’ classes by Jan 15.

The announcement triggered an outcry, prompting Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) central spokesman Maulvi Omar to distance the movement from the decision of the Swat militants.

Managements of private schools also appealed to the militants to take back their decision in the interest of thousands of girl students and hundreds of female teachers, many of them the lone breadwinners of their families.

“The Swat TTP reviewed the decision a couple of weeks ago with Maulana Fazlullah in the chair. They did not withdraw their threat, but softened their stance and allowed girls to attain education up to the fourth grade. However, the chief of the terrorists renewed the threat of bombing educational institutions if any school continued higher education for girls,” The News said.

“The expiry of the deadline would have no immediate repercussions due to the winter vacations. However, the private schools’ management, a body of 400 educational institutions including 20 colleges, has decided to discontinue female education after the vacation despite assurances from the administration to provide security to their schools,” the newspaper added.

It quoted the owner of a chain of institutes as saying that the district coordination officer had offered security to the schools “but we think it will not work”.

“Girls, their parents, teachers and even drivers transporting students to and from schools are frightened while the owners of buildings have also asked us to vacate their property in view of fear of damage due to bombing,” the owner said.

“Thus, posting a few personnel at schools is of no use. So, we have decided to close female sections in private institutes to avoid the militants’ wrath,” he added.

Taliban militants have already destroyed 172 schools - 122 for girls and 50 for boys -depriving 40,646 students of education. These include 23,308 girls and 17,338 boys. This apart, 18 schools have been occupied by the armed forces engaged in operations against the militants. This has impacted 7,039 students.

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