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UN: Pakistani Schools Need Protection From Terrorism

  • VOA News

Image released on October 19, 2012, shows Pakistani teenager Yousufzai, who is recovering in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen.

Image released on October 19, 2012, shows Pakistani teenager Yousufzai, who is recovering in Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, England, after being shot in the head by Taliban gunmen.

United Nations officials say they are devising an "action plan" to help protect schools in Pakistan's northwest from militant attacks and natural disasters.

UNESCO's program officer in Pakistan, Arsalan Zaid, tells VOA Urdu Service the U.N. agency is working to train teachers and students in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province on responding to emergencies.

The provincial education ministry says terrorism-related incidents have affected nearly 800 schools across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, with nearly a quarter of schools completely destroyed in militant attacks. Many are in the process of being rebuilt.

Officials say the majority of the affected schools are in the Malakand division of Khyber, which is also home to Swat Valley. Earlier this month, the Pakistani Taliban shot and wounded Malala Yousafzai as she left school in Swat. The militant group said it targeted the 15-year-old because she spoke out against the Taliban.

Yousafzai has been internationally recognized for promoting girls' education and documenting Taliban atrocities in Swat.

UNESCO official Zaidi says in order to protect schools and allow children to continue their education, more attention must be paid to where school buildings are built to ensure they are not prone to militant attacks and natural disasters, such as flooding.

He told VOA, "unfortunately the sites allocated for schools are extremely unsafe. In area, they are located on river banks and at places where landslides are possible."

Zaidi adds that preparing school staff and students to deal with an emergency situation is far cheaper than having to rebuild a school.

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