1,800 schools awaiting reconstruction 14 years after earthquake

Mohammad Ashfaq

PESHAWAR: The federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments have failed to reconstruct around 1,800 government schools in the province even 14 years after their destruction by a 7.6 earthquake on Oct 8, 2005.

These schools are located in Abbottabad, Mansehra, Shangla, Battagram and Kohistan districts.

Official sources said a lack of funds and disinterest of the authorities had delayed the reconstruction of schools and thus, making students attend classes in adverse conditions.

Officials blame delay on lack of funds, disinterest of authorities

They said those students from hilly areas were exposed to harsh weather in the winter season, especially due to heavy snowfall.

The sources said the quake-hit schools had been functioning in rented places or in tents for the last 14 years.

They said the 2005 earthquake had damaged 3,660 government schools in five districts.

The sources said the Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority had conducted a damage survey soon after it assumed the responsibility of rebuilding 2,900 destroyed schools in the province.

They said the Erra had so far reconstructed 1,800 schools but work on 1,100 schools had yet to be completed.

The sources said after the Erra’s survey was over, the authorities pulled down 760 schools, which were partially damaged and could be repaired.

They said neither the federal governments nor the provincial governments took interest in the reconstruction of 760 schools until 2014-15 when the then KP government decided to do the job.

Sources in the education department said work on 1,100 schools had come to a standstill due to the federal government’s failure to provide funds to the Erra, while the provincial government had been chugging along since 2014-15 to carry out its share of school reconstruction work.

They said work was under way on 540 schools to be rebuilt by the provincial government, while 220 schools were in the same condition as they’re in 2005.

The sources said the provincial government had so far completed work on 29 schools, which was just a fraction of the tally of 760, while work had been completed on 58 schools by 80-90 per cent.

They said 60-70 per cent work had been completed on 64 schools and 1-50 per cent on 313 schools.

The sources said the provincial government had spent Rs1.6 billion on the reconstruction of destroyed schools between 2014 and 2019.

They said the shortage of funds had forced the government to release funds in small chunks, while the education department had received a paltry allocation of Rs350 million in the last fiscal for the purpose but only Rs231 million of it was utilised.

The sources said the allocation for destroyed schools had gone up to Rs1.3 billion in the current fiscal.

They said the constant delay had escalated the cost of the reconstruction of schools to be carried out by both federal and provincial governments.

The sources claimed that the reconstruction cost was going up by billions of rupees every year.

A district education officer from the earthquake-hit region told Dawn that the purpose-built building was the basic requirement for an educational institution.

“Both teachers and students can’t concentrate on work in a tent school,” he said.

The official also said girl students and their teachers felt insecure in places with no boundary wall and roof.

When contacted, adviser to the chief minister on elementary and secondary education Ziaullah Bangash said a group of MPAs and Speaker of the provincial assembly Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani had been in contact with the Erra for the schools’ reconstruction for few months.

“We are pushing the Erra to complete work on schools as soon as possible,” he said.

The adviser said if the Erra didn’t agree with lawmakers and speaker, finance minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra would take up the issue with the federal finance ministry for immediate release of funds.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019


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