Education in the tribal areas
The Senate Standing Committee on States and Frontier Regions (SAFRON), in a recent meeting, has lamented the state of education in the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), now a part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and has directed the federal government to take urgent measures to elevate educational standards there and bring them on a par with the rest of the country.
The committee has indeed touched upon an issue of vital national importance. The magnitude of the task, therefore, is such that it must be tackled on a war footing. Nothing less will do. Firstly, the region suffers from an acute shortage of qualified teachers. It is essential, therefore, for the government to both initiate teacher training programmes and provide incentives for those willing to teach in the tribal areas. Prime Minister Imran Khan has recently rightly instructed that higher education spending not be cut regardless of budgetary constraints. This is a good sign in that it shows that the government may be willing to spend funds on education in the tribal areas as well. Secondly, according to the Academy of Educational Planning and Management (AEPM), 58 % of the tribal areas’ children from KG to Grade 12 are out of school. This necessitates not only a media awareness campaign but also awareness programmes conducted through tribal elders and the ulema, both of whom wield considerable influence in the tribal areas. Thirdly, there are daunting challenges such as lack of school buildings and science laboratories which are going to have to be addressed. In many cases, schools even lack furniture so that students may be able to concentrate on acquiring an education.
It is important to remember, however, that it will take resolve on the part of the government to allocate funds for education in the tribal areas at any cost. The government must not waver. There is too much at stake.
Bursting at the seams
Dealing with overcrowding in the country’s prisons is by no means a new problem, but it hasn’t been this bad in years as it is now. Jails are typically filled with more inmates than they are designed to hold. There appears no let-up in the disturbing trend where the prisons have been witnessing the inmate population steadily creep up. And a major contributor to this state of affairs is unsolved cases pending adjudication in courts, with under-trial prisoners put behind bars. A report by a commission constituted by the Islamabad High Court (IHC) only goes to confirm this. It says Bottom of Formthat an alarming number of prisoners who are languishing in jails across the four provinces have not been convicted and are thus a reason why prisons are bursting at the seams.
Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari presented the report of the commission regarding jail reforms and the situation of prisoners to the IHC. It says under-trial prisoners constitute more than half of the prison population in all four provinces. An alarming 71 per cent of all prisoners in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are unconvicted. The proportion is 70pc in Sindh, 55pc in Punjab and 59pc in Balochistan. Even though these prisoners have not yet been convicted of any offences they are languishing in prisons and contributing to overcrowding, says the report.
The report also sheds light on serious physical and mental ailments that the country’s prison population is suffering from. According to data provided by prison authorities in all four provinces which has been cited in the report, a total of 1,823 inmates are suffering from hepatitis, 425 have HIV, 173 tuberculosis, 594 mental illnesses and 2,192 are suffering from other ailments. We cannot but agree with the minister more when she suggests the inmates should be granted the right to work in prisons so that they can start their new lives upon release.
Finally, some love for local govts