Swat Students suffers the ravages of weather

Swat students forced to suffer the ravages of weather under the sky and on ground.

Between 2007 and 2009, Taliban militants blew up a total of 401 schools in the valley, predominantly girls’ schools, disrupting education for 87,000 children. Once the region was cleared of militants following a military operation, the provincial reconstruction, rehabilitation and settlement authority (PaRRSA) initiated work on rebuilding 87 schools. To this day, the only ‘structures’ on ground are project information boards, strewn across cement and gravel, while the future of more than 25,000 children hangs in balance.
The culprit? Over-regulating donor agencies or shoddy contractors, depending on whom you ask.
Funds aplenty, work zilch
Soon after peace was restored in Swat, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) provided $25 million for rehabilitation and reconstruction of Swat, including the 87 schools, in December 2009. The funds for schools were subsequently handed over to PaRRSA, to ensure quick reconstruction, but a year on, things have yet to move beyond the foundation phase.
The slow pace of work on reconstruction has sparked a war of words between the contractors and PaRRSA, with both parties hurling accusations at each other.
“Contractors are responsible for the slow progress,” said a government official on condition of anonymity. “Every contract we have signed stipulates that work will be completed, on each and every school, in 12 months. If the contractors fail to do so, they will be fined and blacklisted,” the official added.
The contractors air their grievances, when contacted by The Express Tribune, and place the blame squarely on the team of engineers appointed by PaRRSA for monitoring the reconstruction process.
The engineers don’t know how to work with construction drawings or maps, alleges president of the contractors’ association, Mansoor Durrani.
“Each of their tests takes three to four months during which our work remains suspended. They only ask us to buy materials from the people of their choice,” he said.
“We were not informed of the formalities before the awarding of the contract. If we knew about them, we would have given different rates and timeframe,” he added.
The formalities they complain about is the monitoring system set by the donor agency, the USAID, said spokesperson for PaRRSA Adnan Khan while talking to the media.
The schools have been funded by USAID, and therefore the donor agency has a legal right to set the monitoring criteria, Khan said.
Meanwhile, the only ones suffering are the students.
“Girls cannot be educated under an open sky,” said a female teacher at the Girls Primary School Ningolai.
“More than half of our students have already dropped out while more are leaving,” she said.
(edited by gulraiz khan)

Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th,  2011.


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