Army’s education campaign in FATA harbinger of change

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ISLAMABAD: The war on terror undoubtedly caused massive destruction, displacement and turmoil, besides inflicting irreparable loss and unparalleled agony to the already war-weary tribesmen of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). However, the public has little knowledge about the subsequent revolutionary changes in the region’s education sector, especially in the South Waziristan Agency (SWA).

In the wake of military offensives meant to flush out militants, the military primarily focused on education in a bid to equip the youth with modern education for which purpose then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani announced the establishment of Cadet College Wana (CCW) on February 2010.

In the beginning, classes that commenced on April 2011 took place in a six-room building. After the construction of a proper building, around 224 cadets have passed out, around 50 per cent of whom are locals.

Out of the total cadets who have passed out, a good number of graduates have joined various services with a success ratio of 58 per cent. According to the details, around 45 joined the army, 26 went for a medical career, while around 52 have joined engineering.

The CCW enrolled students aged between 12 and 14 years in grade 8 and provided them with Secondary School (SSC) and Higher Secondary School (HSSC) certifications. The students called “cadets” usually graduate after a five-year stay at the college. Presently 508 students are enrolled in the college.

FATA has remained underdeveloped throughout history and even after independence. The status quo was maintained and no worthwhile efforts were made to bring these areas into the national mainstream. This negligence bred poverty, unemployment and illiteracy, which resulted in a dearth of economic stakes and the downfall of social values.

The persistent unconducive environment combined with a lack of awareness strengthened the roots of militancy, as well as, the adverse law and order situation in the area. A massive education campaign is imperative in FATA.

If one singular reason is to be identified as the root cause of this template, the lack of education stands out as the most contributing factor.

Hence, it was decided that six cadet colleges would be established in FATA. The decision was taken during a meeting at the Governor House, Peshawar in August 2008 with an aim to promote quality education to provide better opportunities to the youth of the region. The responsibility to do this was taken on by the army as a self-assigned obligation.

The formal approval to establish the CCW was given by then prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in November 2010. This decision was taken in a meeting with then Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Governor Awais Ahmad Ghani. The purpose was to ‘address the problems of the people of FATA by providing better education facilities to the tribal youth.

In pursuance of the PM’s directives, the CCW starting functioning in April 2011. The temporary campus of the college was set up at Girls Degree College (GDC), Wana, which was under construction at that time.

The construction of the GDC was completed at breakneck speed with the assistance of army engineers from the IXth Division. The first batch of 50 students was selected prior to the inauguration with more admissions planned at regular intervals.

The importance of a college and its effects on a region were demonstrated by the establishment of Cadet College Razmak (CCR) in North Waziristan Agency in 1978.

Being desirous of change, setting up a cadet college in SWA also became a cherished goal for the people of this area. The enduring desire of local tribes was acknowledged as “Operation Rah-e-Nijat” (‘Path to Salvation’) and was successfully concluded by the Pakistan Army.