The image of a girl with a book often represents a potent force for change, yet, sadly, this doesn’t hold true for the tribal girls of Ex- FATA. The ravages of war and extremism have left the tribal belt, especially its girls, in disarray.
The 2023 census paints a grim picture of education in the newly merged tribal districts, particularly Bajaur. The female literacy rate in these districts is below 8%, with only 3% of females being literate in Bajaur. Despite a female population outnumbering boys (170,000 girls out of over 1.3 million), only 40,000 girls attend primary school. This number drastically declines in middle and high schools to 4,500 and 1,450, respectively, with only 450 reaching high secondary school. Sadly, Khar Degree College is the sole institution offering programs for girls, namely BS Islamiat and Botany.
The inadequate educational facilities in tribal areas reflect a lack of commitment from the authorities. Cultural taboos and grassroots issues further contribute to the decline in girls’ education. The scarcity of girls’ schools (only 184 in Bajaur) fuels a rising dropout rate, leaving 97% and 93% of girls in Ex-FATA, particularly in Bajaur, deprived of education. Article 25(A) of the Constitution mandates education for children aged 5-16 regardless of gender. However, tribal districts lack secondary schools for girls due to cultural norms, and the absence of girls’ education triggers gender-based problems such as female illiteracy, violence against women, and child marriages.
Immediate measures are imperative. The government must launch awareness initiatives in tribal areas and provide incentives to families to encourage them to send their daughters to school.