PESHAWAR -- Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) authorities are taking every step to rebuild militancy- and disaster-damaged schools.
The effort is meant to combat extremism by educating all children and eliminating the ignorance and despair that terrorist recruiters exploit.
The government decided to "rebuild all damaged schools in the province ... to ensure a bright future for our new generation", KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak said in Peshawar May 27 at a ground-breaking for reconstruction of a flood-damaged school.
"Without education, we can neither ensure a civilised and peaceful society nor realise the dream of progress and prosperity," he said in his speech.
NGOs and foreign donors are helping finance the reconstruction effort, he said.
The Provincial Reconstruction, Rehabilitation and Settlement Authority (PaRRSA) has a mandate to monitor the situation of those affected by terrorism and natural disasters, he added.
An ambitious schedule
Unpreventable natural disasters and the depredations of terrorists have created a massive repair bill. Starting in 2001, terrorism worsened in KP, but an offensive that the army launched in June 2014 has reduced terrorism nationwide.
Malakand "was the region [in KP] worst hit by Talibansation and floods", Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) spokesman Latif-ur-Rehman told Pakistan Forward.
Workers have rebuilt 179 of the 181 schools destroyed in Malakand by those factors, he said, adding that they are completing reconstruction of the other two.
In Malakand, 309 schools were damaged or destroyed in recent years, he said.
Foreign donors including the UAE government are helping pay for those repairs, he said.
New schools are meant to provide a physical standard that their predecessors might not have met. Regulations call for at least six rooms in every primary school, as well as electricity, rest rooms and furniture for every new school.
Officials are selecting flood-free sites for future schools, he added.
Children rush back
Schoolchildren eager to learn are flocking to the rebuilt schools.
In 2009, at the militancy's local height, school attendance was about 30%, Latif-ur-Rehman said. Now some schools are struggling with attendance rates of 110 to 120% of their official capacity, he said.
"PaRRSA is struggling with all its resources to complete reconstruction of militancy-damaged schools in Malakand," said PDMA Director General Amer Afaq.
"Success without education is impossible," he told Pakistan Forward.
Rebuilding in KP and FATA
In all of KP, the Taliban destroyed about 250 schools, KP Education Minister Atif Khan told Pakistan Forward.
Workers have rebuilt about 200 of them and will finish the remaining 50 or so as soon as possible, he added.
Besides rebuilding schools, the KP government is considering the use of shipping containers as temporary schools in earthquake-stricken areas, the minister said.
Education in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) suffered even worse damage from terrorism than KP education did, Iqbal Ahmad, a FATA Secretariat Planning and Development Section official, said.
Terrorists destroyed or damaged more than 1,100 schools in FATA, he said, adding that so far workers have rebuilt 665 of them. The worst-affected tribal agency was South Waziristan with more than 200 terrorism-damaged or -destroyed schools.
Repairs and reconstruction of the rest depend on concluding funding agreements with donors, he said.
Hoping for 100% enrolment in FATA
The Pakistani government is working to have 100% of children in FATA go to school. It launched such a campaign in April.
"We have to educate every child throughout the country," KP Governor Zafar Iqbal Jhagra said at a Peshawar prize ceremony for top FATA schoolchildren April 8.
He urged tribes to play their role in reaching 100% enrolment.
"Education is a pre-requisite for the true development of Pakistan," he added.