Saudi Fund for Development and UNICEF revive education in the Swat Valley
By A. Sami Malik
NAWAY KALAY, Swat Valley, Pakistan, 9 May 2012 – Students of the Naway Kalay Government Boys’ School wore crisp uniforms and carried shiny blue school bags. Their faces glowed with excitement at meeting the special guests who were coming to their school.
Representatives of the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), the Royal Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and UNICEF, who have made it possible for the children of Swat Valley to resume their educations, were visiting the school.
Honouring their special guests
Since 2008, intensified government security operations against armed groups in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have resulted in mass displacement, with families fleeing to safer locations across the country. Since January 2012 alone, over 687,000 people have been displaced.
“Children would not come to school due to fear. Many organizations have worked for the cause of education in this area. This school building was damaged and has been reconstructed. Now children have resumed their studies,” said Usman Khan, a teacher at the Naway Kalay Government Boys’ School, where both boys and girls are enrolled.
Young girls and boys dressed in traditional costumes showered rose petals on their honoured guests as they arrived. The Education Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sardar Hussain Babak; Representative of Saudi Fund for Development Abdullah Al-Shoaibi; Deputy Head of Mission, Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia Jassim M. Al Khaldi; and UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Dan Rohrmann visited classrooms, mingled with students and showed appreciation for the amenities that have been provided since the school’s renovation.
Schools damaged and destroyed
The students recalled having their lives and educations disrupted.
Fourteen-year-old Zakir Hussain said, “These people occupied our area and destroyed our schools, our houses. Security forces took action against them and threw them out of the area. We now have a new beautiful school building with all facilities and have started our education again.”
The picturesque Swat Valley bore the brunt of the fighting. Hundreds of thousands of residents from the area were forced to leave their homes and belongings. According to UNICEF Pakistan, around 640 schools were fully or partially destroyed in six districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, including Swat.
Getting back on track
After the government forces took control of the valley during the latter half of 2009, displaced families began to return. The government started to repair damaged school buildings, and UNICEF supported training for teachers and introduced ‘child-friendly schooling’, an interactive approach to education that engages children and makes learning fun.
“UNICEF is always there before, during and after an emergency. Our support to people displaced in KP and FATA during 2009 is an example. When people returned to their home areas, there were no schools,” said Mr. Rohrmann.
“It has been a very important event today, both for UNICEF, the Government of Swat, and also for the Saudi Fund for Development, who has supported UNICEF with $23 million for education, health, nutrition and water and sanitation services. As a result of this support, they can get a quality education. Investing in the children’s education is investing in the future,” Mr. Rohrmann continued.
Mr. Al-Shoaibi said, “His Majesty [the King of Saudi Arabia] always encourages education, and that is why he directed us to facilitate the education process in Swat.”
The SFD contribution to UNICEF is expected to help 483,000 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and FATA.