School bombings disrupt education, threaten Pakistan’s future
PESHAWAR – Three bombings of the government-run Girls High School Landi Arbab could not deter 13-year-old Saba Gul from studying.
“A large number of my friends and classmates are scared after three attempts by the miscreants to destroy our school,” said Saba, a seventh-grader. “Many of them have parents who are not letting them go for further schooling.”
Saba, however, keeps going to class. She recalled the day when the students learned that someone had planted a bomb.
“Our fellow students and seniors ran in panic while police and bomb disposal staff searched for the planted explosives,” Saba said of the day police successfully defused two bombs close to her school building. “It was a horrible day when I saw many of my friends weeping while running out of the building.”
School bombings affect more than tribal areas
Hundreds of schools have been bombed in Peshawar and other parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), as well as in adjoining tribal areas in recent years, depriving hundreds of thousands of students of their right to an education.
More than 210 schools have been blown up in Swat during the last three years while militants destroyed 97 in Bajaur and 57 in Mohmand Tribal Agency. They bombed a large number of schools in other tribal areas as well as in northern and southern districts of the province.
After blowing up dozens of educational institutions in Darra Adamkhel, a semi- tribal belt between Peshawar and Kohat, miscreants moved toward Peshawar to hit schools in Matani, Adezai, Badabera, Sulemankhel and adjoining towns.
In Peshawar, they have blown up 22 schools so far and about 35 in Khyber Agency and Darra Adamkhel.
Adnan, an 8-year-old second-grade student from Matani, is one of thousands of pupils who abandoned their studies.
“I was hearing for quite some time that certain people were destroying schools. On May 25, when I got up to prepare for school, my father told me that our school had been bombed,” said Adnan, who has not gone to school since the incident.
Adnan’s father now waits for safer conditions before letting his son go back to school. He can’t afford to send Adnan to Peshawar to study.
Most bombings just destroy buildings; one has been deadly
April 8 was a disastrous day for Peshawar education, when militants bombed three schools. They included the Landi Arbab Girls High School and two girls’ primary schools in Spina Warai and Regi village. Girls’ schools are the prime target in most attacks in Peshawar and the rest of KP.
Most of these attacks destroyed only the school buildings because they occurred late at night. Only once, on April 18, did a bomb hurt students. A bomb exploding in front of the semi-governmental Police Public School in Board Bazaar killed one student and injured 11.
More than 450 private schools in Peshawar remained closed for many days after miscreants circulated letters threatening those institutions for teaching girls or for having co-educational student bodies.
In early 2009, several gunmen attacked a private school on Warsak Road near Peshawar, hurling bombs and injuring staff. They set fire to school vans and ransacked offices before police and other security forces arrived.
“This was enough to scare us all, as well as our parents. We want to continue our education, but threats of attacks have badly damaged our concentration,” said Fozia Ali Khan, a tenth-grade student.
Most of her friends are frightened, but they never considered abandoning their studies, she said. “Life and death are in the hands of Allah,” Fozia said.
Miscreants, besides demolishing buildings, have abducted teachers and students. In June 2009 they kidnapped about 300 students at Cadet College Razmak, who were travelling in a bus caravan at the time. Government forces rescued them after several hours of captivity. A senior police officer was killed while foiling an attempt to kidnap students from a private school in Tank.
Children beg for help in attaining education
The ordeals have aged children beyond their years.
“I appeal to those who are bombing schools to please let us get an education so we can serve our society and country,” said Sanya Ahmad, who wears a traditional burqa to school.
Faizan, a young student, asked government agencies and the school administrations to ensure security for all students so they can concentrate on their studies.
“This is the duty of the government and the respective management(s) to ensure security so we can continue our studies,” he said.
A number of families have enrolled their children in urban schools after threats to schools in rural areas. A large number of them migrated from Mohmand, Bajaur and Darra Adamkhel.
“We, two brothers, have been studying at a local private school in Sherkera but later obtained admission to our present school on Warsak Road, as we want to continue studies,” said Inzamam Afridi. “My elder brother also decided to move to a rented home in Peshawar cantonment for a better future.”
He confirmed that several of his fellow students from his school and other schools have also migrated to schools in Peshawar city.