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Ethnic violence takes a toll on education in Pak

Oct 30, 2012

Religious schools, or madrasas in Karachi, are eagerly filling in the gap created by the closure of 30 government schools.

When ethnic riots erupt in Karachi, Qasba Colony is usually the worst affected: The violence has taken a dramatic toll on education and the main beneficiaries are Islamic religious schools, or madrasas.

Since June 2011 when the first wave of targeted killings and ethnic violence hit the area (deeply divided between Pashto-speaking Pathans and the Urdu-speaking Muhajirs), 30 government schools have closed permanently, some 400 teachers have stopped coming to the area, and the lives of 25,000 students are hanging in the balance.

Madrasas, are taking up the slack in this deprived area.

The road leading to Qasba suggests all is not well: A drugs den where teenagers flock to buy heroine or hashish here; a school wall pock-marked with bullet holes there; and three schools in ruins, with one of them used as a rubbish dump.

There was a time when Muhajir teachers could travel to Pathan localities and vice-versa, but not any more. Turf wars between two political parties, the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM - dominated by Urdu-speaking Muhajirs) and the Awami National Party (ANP - dominated by Pashto-speaking Pathans) have spread to this area too.

Largely unoccupied youths are resorting to crime. Every week 10-12 crimes are recorded in Qasba, according to a police official who preferred anonymity. "The closing down of schools may be one of the reasons for the increase in youth offenders," the officer said.

"Students who once went to school now roam the streets, waiting for a riot to erupt, for this is when they can pick pockets and indulge in petty crimes," said Sajid Hussain, a school teacher from the area.

Limited options

Local people are being left with two educational options: a costly private school or madrasas. The latter are popular because they provide two meals a day and a place to sleep during the night.

"The madrasa is an umbrella of sorts; the person who finds no shelter seeks shelter here. For this is where he finds food, education and a place to sleep," said Abdul Waheed

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SOURCE: IRIN

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