Thursday, 10 September 2009


A shortfall of around $20 million in educational funding is hampering efforts to get Pakistani children back to school in the aftermath of the mass exodus in the north-west of the country during the recent conflict in the area, the United Nations humanitarian arm announced today.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (<"">OCHA) reported that only 17 per cent of all activities covering the educational needs of children affected by the conflict in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) are currently funded.

Many children who have returned to the region have found that some 550 of their former schools have been damaged or destroyed, including 147 girls' schools.

With the recent start of the new school year, a group of UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), led by the UN Children's Fund (<"">UNICEF) – is working to help provide access to education for all children affected by the emergency.

OCHA has reported in recent weeks that around 1.6 million of the more than 2 million people who fled the military offensive against militants in NWFP have now returned to their homes, stressing that there is an urgent need to provide school supplies and school tents for the new academic year until pre-fabricated shelters arrive for more than 500 schools in Swat and Buner districts. UNICEF has already dispatched 100 school tents to the two districts, enabling a number of returning children to start the year.

The children's agency has also prioritized the repair and rehabilitation of 3,565 primary schools damaged from hosting internally displaced persons (IDPs) – estimated to benefit over half a million children – with nearly 1,000 schools already refurbished and the work on another 900 under way.

In addition, an 18-month 'Welcome to School' initiative, designed to get around 532,000 children into school and keep them there, is slated for Swat, Buner, Lower Dir and Malakand districts.

The scheme will create temporary learning spaces in tents, makeshift shelters, rented buildings or through "second shift" arrangements in nearby schools. Agencies working in education will also provide education supplies to all schools in conflict-affected districts and work to get all children in school, including those who have never attended schools, especially girls.

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