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PAKISTAN: Teacher placements on hold in Taliban-controlled Swat

PESHAWAR, 27 April 2009 (IRIN) - The peace deal in mid-February between the government of Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Taliban militants controlling Swat Valley, is affecting the placement of teachers, say local media and analysts.

About 300 young people who had completed the government's one year Primary Teaching Certificate and hoped to take up teaching jobs are affected.

"We have been waiting for two years to be appointed. But this is being delayed. We are without jobs. We cannot support our families. The government has failed to help us at all," Mumtaz Gul, 25, (not his real name), one of the teachers, told IRIN, adding that it had been hard for his impoverished family to send him to school and then for teacher training.

"There are posts empty in schools as many teachers have fled. But we can make no new appointments as we have no instructions from the government, plus the militants control everything anyway," an education department official in Swat, who did not want to be named, told IRIN.

Scared

Schools for girls, banned by the Taliban late last year, have been re-opened under the peace deal, but many parents have opted to keep their children away. "My daughters, aged 11 and 14, are too scared to return to their schools in Swat. The Taliban are also discouraging education for girls over 13. That is why we have moved to Peshawar so my children can get an education," said Javed Khan, 40, an accountant who now plans to stay on in Peshawar.

Over 200 schools have been attacked by the Taliban in the past two years, and in many cases the buildings were destroyed

A large number of children have no schools to go to. According to media reports, boys affected by the destruction of their schools are now being recruited by the Taliban who have set up training camps to persuade them to take up 'jihad'.

Local TV footage shows small boys emulating the Taliban as they roam the streets, warning women to remain indoors.

"I have heard many accounts of boys being taken away to seminaries and camps, sometimes without even asking their parents. I am scared this could happen to my sons. That's why we have left Swat," said Muhammad Rafiquddin, a shopkeeper, who has moved his family to Lahore, capital of Punjab Province. He is now looking for a job in Peshawar to be closer to his parents who are still based in his home village near Mingora.

Not just teachers affected

"The peace deal has created many problems here," Afzal Khan Lala, a local veteran politician, said. Lala does not back the recent accord with the militants.

Others, too, are worried about the situation in Swat. "We are very concerned about continued violations of human rights and abuses of women and children," Iqbal Haider, co-chairperson of the autonomous Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told IRIN.

"We are confident the problems faced by the people of Swat will be resolved soon," the provincial information minister, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, said.

However, many Swat residents who lost their jobs are not so sure. "I have not had a job for over 12 months. My family barely survives on what my elderly father earns as a labourer," said Fazal Khan (not his real name) in Mingora. Khan, 30, used to work as a waiter in a small hotel, earning about US$65 a month during the summer, but tourism has virtually ended.

A local government official in Mingora, who chose not to be named for security reasons, estimated 10,000 or more jobs - in teaching, tourism and related industries may have been lost. "Even emerald mines have been taken over by the Taliban who have appointed their own people to work them," he said.

kh/at/cb

Theme (s): Conflict, Education,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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