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Giving Displaced Girls Access to Education in Pakistan

© UNICEF/Pak/Ramoneda
Girls displaced by fighting in north-west Pakistan attend school for the first time in their lives.

By Antonia Paradela

Katcha Garhi Camp, Peshawar – Tayyba Ul Haq pulls her white shawl to make sure it covers her blond hair during the break at the school in Katcha Garhi Camp. The youngest of six children, she is thrilled to have the chance to get an education for the first time. “Back home I was too busy doing house chores and gathering water,” she says. Like many women and girls from Pakistan tribal areas in the border with Afghanistan, Tayyba does not know her age. Now that she has the chance of going to school, she dreams of becoming a doctor.

“When we came to the camp my mother told me that I could go to school as we had water near our tent and I did not have to spend time fetching it. I really like coming to school,” says Tayyba.

Fighting between government forces and militants in Bajaur Agency in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) also affected Tayyba’s village and the whole family had to flee. “I remember seeing men with long beards and long hair, their face covered except for their eyes, when I was going to fetch water,” she recalls. “They used to come to the houses and get grain by force. During the shelling of our village I was terrified and would cry a lot,” she says.

Like many others, Tayyba’s family left their village in August 2008, returned during a truce in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan but was forced to escape again as fighting resumed in October. By February 2009 it is estimated that more than 320,000 people have been forced to leave their homes and seek refuge in safe areas of the North-West Frontier Province and the rest of Pakistan. Of these, some 70,000 live in camps for displaced people like Tayyba. With a literacy rate of three per cent amongst women in FATA, where Bajaur Agency is located, UNICEF-supported schools in the camps offered many children, in particularly girls, their first chance to get an education.

“When we came to the camp my mother told me that I could go to school as we had water near our tent and I did not have to spend time fetching it. I really like coming to school,” says Tayyba.

Aisha is a vivacious girl who, like Tayyba, looks about eleven. Back in her village, she had only been to school for a year and could not continue further as there was no girls’ school near her home.

© UNICEF/Pak/Ramoneda
Tayyba, centre in a white shawl, did not have access to education in her home village as she was busy with household chores.

UNICEF leads the education cluster to ensure that children displaced by fighting can continue their primary education in a safe and supportive environment. The camp schools also provide a unique opportunity to enrol children who, like Tayyba, have never attended school in their conservative tribal region.  UNICEF supports primary education services in 11 IDP camps, with current enrolment at 8,712 children including 3,338 girls.

With UNICEF support, repairs have been completed in 190 schools in Lower Dir District of NWFP which had been damaged by the presence of displaced families at the beginning of the emergency. UNICEF also distributed essential school supplies including Schools in a Box, sets of primary textbooks, furniture and stationery.

"It is UNICEF's priority to make sure that IDP children have the opportunity to complete an uninterrupted course of primary education," says UNICEF's Education Officer in Peshawar, Mukhtar Aziz Kansi. "Working with the NWFP department of education, we have helped to ensure that six districts of the province enrol IDP children in second shifts in existing primary schools, so that both they and children in host communities can benefit from quality primary education."



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