May 16, 2018

'Don't send your girls to school' warnings as education comes under attack in tribal area of Pakistan

About 500,000 girls are out of school in the Federally Administered Tribal Area in Pakistan

Photo credit: UNICEF / Zaidi

The government has been urged to act after two schools were bombed and leaflets distributed to tribal people by a militant group in North Waziristan.

Human rights groups are calling for government action after attacks on girls' schools and threats to families.

Bombs were set off at two middle schools in the North Waziristan region last week. The main building was damaged in one attack in Mir Ali and a boundary wall in the other three days later in Hassokhel.

Residents said leaflets distributed by a militant group demanded that girls' schools be shut down. One read: “We warn all tribal people to stop sending their grown-up girls to schools. We will not tolerate it.”

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has demanded the government investigate the attacks in the Mirali district of North Waziristan - part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. 

It said: "The commission is appalled to learn that residents are being threatened openly for sending their daughters to school. 

More than 110 girls' schools have been destroyed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the past 10 years

Photo credit: UNICEF / Zaidi

"The state is constitutionally and morally obliged to ensure that every child in Pakistan can attend school - no individual or group has any right to prevent this."

Human Rights Watch also called for action from the national government after the attacks. The organisation said it has documented government failures to prevent attacks on education.

Saroop Ijaz - a lawyer employed by Human Rights Watch in Pakistan - said: "The Pakistani government does not collect proper data on school attacks, so there is no monitoring to ensure that damaged school buildings are repaired or rebuilt," it said. 

"Perhaps more importantly, there are no systems to help traumatised students and staff who survive school attacks but struggle to cope in the aftermath."

Schools are supposed to be safe spaces where children can learn and feel secure with their peers. 

But hundreds of schools and universities have been attacked in Pakistan in recent years. The Education Under Attack 2018 report - which covers the period 2013 to 2017 and was released last week - said about a third were on girls' schools.

More than 110 girls' schools have been destroyed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the past 10 years, according to government estimates.

There is a growing global acceptance that schools and universities must be protected as safe spaces. But Pakistan has yet to sign Safe Schools Declaration - a commitment to protect education and stop military use of schools.

So far 74 nations have signed. Theirworld has been campaigning for the world's most powerful nations, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, to add their names.

France was the first to do so and was joined last month by the United Kingdom. But the United States, Russia and China have still not backed the declaration.

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