11 January 2017
FATA: DI Welcomes Abolishment of Education Rationalisation Policy
(Islamabad-Oslo) – Defend International welcomes the abolishment of FATA Education Rationalisation Policy and encourages the Pakistani authorities to increase their commitment to respecting the right to education, which implies that any measures that may hinder or prevent children from accessing education must be avoided.
The Education Rationalisation Policy was introduced and implemented in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in November 2015, when it was decided that schools with less than 60 boys or 33 girls should merge with other schools in order to save money. The decision resulted in the closure of nearly 1000 schools, the majority of which were primary schools that had served the FATA communities for years.
However, the new policy did not remain unchallenged. In many areas, several petitions, protests and campaigns were organised by parents, teachers, civil society activists and tribal representatives to raise their concerns to the FATA Secretariat, reiterating how difficult it was for children to attend schools located far away from their communities. On 5 January 2017, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governor abolished the policy.
“I am highly obliged to all those who helped us put pressure on FATA secretariat and the Federal Government to take back its decision of implementing FATA Education Rationalisation Policy, which has affected 1000 children schools in an area where schools have already been under terrorists attacks and more than 1,5 million children are out of school,” said Mr. Zar Ali khan Afridi (photo above), Defend International coordinator in FATA. “This is our success, and the success of our friends, colleagues, national and all international organisations and individuals, especially Dr. Widad Akreyi and Defend International.”
The decision means that all the closed schools would be reopened this year. It is expected that thousands of out-of-school children would be able to return to their schools, offering a reminder of what is stated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely that everyone has the right to education.
“We would like to extend our thanks to the local authorities for their collaboration and willingness to address the legitimate concerns raised by the brave FATA human rights defenders,” said co-founder of Defend International, Dr. Widad Akreyi commenting on the decision. “Given that many schools have been targeted by terrorist attacks, as pointed out by our colleague Mr. Afridi, the Federal Government is supposed to allocate funds to build more secure schools, where the students can learn the required skills and where their teachers can teach in an environment that is safe, friendly and supportive.”
Defend International encourages the Pakistani authorities to increase their commitment to respecting the right to education, which implies that they must avoid any measures, including infrastructural limitations, that may hinder or prevent children from accessing education or diminish educational outcomes, especially those of children living in poverty and children with disabilities. As a state party to several international human rights conventions, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Pakistan is expected to uphold the obligations enshrined in these agreements.
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas consist of 7 tribal agencies (Bajaur agency, Mohmand agency, Khyber agency, Orakzai agency, Kurram agency, North Waziristan agency and South Waziristan agency) and 6 Frontier regions (FR Peshawar, FR Kohat, FR Bannu – Mir Ali, FR Lakki Marwat, FR Tank – Jandola, FR Dera Ismail Khan).
FATA are directly governed by Pakistan’s government through the Frontier Crimes Regulations, i.e., the laws that deprive the residents of FATA of three human rights namely, the right to appeal, the right to have legal representation and the right to present reasoned evidence. For more information about the human rights situation in FATA click here.
- Flag of FATA: Wikimedia, user MS05L
- Map of Pakistan and FATA: Wikimedia Commons, user Nomi887