Thursday, June 9, 2011

Afghanistan's Education System in complete disarray: Kandaharis dreadful Future ahead


Students in southern province of Kandahar signify awful future for education in the region, unless serious steps are taken to reform education system. A system that is all mired in corruption.

Corruption in other Afghan governmental offices is not unusual, but in education sector it is rather a turning point that could lead the society to devastating results.

Pushing back talents in favor of ties, connection, money, power and influence are considered to be major categories of corruption in Kandahar schooling system that is already being adversely affected as a result of insecurity.

On the other hand lack of capable governmental leaders is also considered to be a great obstruction in the education system. After insecurity, the rampant corruption in educational system is considered to be a catastrophe for the volatile province,

“The corruption in education system is in its peak. There are no professional and experienced teachers in schools. I have hired my own personal teacher who teaches me.” Essmatullah Baher, 12th grade student of Temor Shahi High School in Kandahar, told Surgar.

The different categories of corruption in education sector are the reasons why the system is going downward-spiral. In most of the schools there is no adequate curriculum. Students get good grades based on personal ties and bribery.

“My father asked me for what reason I’ve got the 38th position in the class, I told him to give me 60,000. AFN ($1304) and I will show you straight A.” Mohmmad Khan Khatibi, a high school student in Zahir Shahi High school, told Surgar. “There are few teachers whom are not corrupted.”

Shortage of capable people in Kandahar provincial department of education remains the biggest challenge to the troubled sector.

“There are numerous problems in Kandahar provincial education sector. Government is not aware of the fact that system is nearly halted, because nobody cares about it. Lack of professional teachers is also considered to be a major challenge.” The head of Qalam private secondary school told Surgar in an exclusive interview.

Education is the first important factor in the development of a country. Where there is no education there is no doctors, engineers or the other important people that could raise the overall status of a country.
People involved in corruption inside the education system are considered ‘disloyal to the nation’ and the coming generation, according to locals.

Mohmmad Farooq, teacher in Kandahar teaching & training institute and head of Kandahar science institute says he has heard unbelievable stories about teachers. “I have heard that a teacher threw his exams paper after he collected it from students in the ditch on the way home. Now if that’s true, how could he judge students talents accordingly? There are teachers who pass students based on bribes or even telephone credit cards.”

Insecurity, lack of awareness and corrupt education officials are likely to cause education system a lot of harm.

“In many schools we do not have laboratories, and in the few school that have these facilities lack experienced teachers for scientific experiments.” Mohmmad Hasham, a teacher who has been teaching from past 35 years, told Surgar.
During the past two years the provincial education department has remained without director. For a certain period of time there was only an acting Director.

Aimal Shuja is a teacher; says he hasn’t even seen the acting director of Education department in his school for supervision. No one has paid a visit to the school from past four years in order to know about students and teachers problems and concerns. He also said that corrupt teachers have also harmed all teachers’ reputation but, there are teachers that are still clean.

“The corrupt teachers have harmed our character too. There are good teachers who don’t take bribe or pass students based on personal ties or for bribes.” Hasham, another teacher told Surgar.

Is it possible for a teacher to pass a student in exams individually, or in other words without others’ assistance? We shared our assumption with Agha Sheren, assistant head master of Zahir Shahi High School.
He said it is impossible for a teacher to pass failed students in exams without cooperation of other officials in the school. He laid the blame on those senior officials whom brought incapable people into the lead. “There is really need of skilled, honest and capable officials in the education system.”

There are obvious signs of vast corruption in Kandahar education department. Students are passed in exams who do not attend school, they only go to school when exams arrive; Khatibi gave another example of corruption.

“A student should be excluded after him making 40 absentees during the nine month study period. But what we see during the nine months only 25 students in our class are present, and on exam day there are 39 students. Despite the fact such students are passed with good grades. Why? Because of corruption” He said.

At the same time, another teacher says there are problems, but are also solutions.
“The system needs youth to be given the opportunity to participate, because they have the energy, passion, and talent.” Mohmmad Rahimi said.

Even though some point fingers of blame to school teachers and other senior officials in the department, others say parents should be blamed.

“Parents are the ones responsible for their children. They should look after their children if they are going to school regularly or not, and ensure if they are studying or no.” Nada Mohmmad, a student told Surgar.
Central government agrees with the existing problems in Kandahar education system.

Deputy Minister of Afghan Education, Mohmmad Asif Nang says efforts to appoint head for Kandahar provincial education department are underway. As if the four years are not enough to fill a crucial business.

“Even though it’s not our job to appoint a head for the department, but we will help.” He said.
The question remains unresolved is what could save the falling education sector of the province?
It is only possible when teacher and senior officials turn honest, get knowledge of their responsibility, Baheer answered.

U.S. wants ‘joint bases’ in Afghanistan, Gates says


The United States should maintain a long-term military presence in Afghanistan as a “tenant” on bases jointly occupied with Afghan forces, rather than on permanent U.S. bases, after its combat mission ends, according to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

“Bases that belong to one country in another country are always a magnet for trouble,” he said in an interview with Afghanistan’s Tolo News that was released Wednesday. “Joint bases,” from which U.S. troops could provide ongoing training and other assistance, would be “more tolerable to the Afghan people,” he said.

As President Obama determines how many U.S. troops will come home in initial withdrawals next month — with all combat forces to be gone from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 — the administration is negotiating a “strategic partnership” agreement with the Kabul government for the longer term.

Obama has said he expects the U.S. presence to gradually transition over the next several years to more of a traditional diplomatic and foreign assistance role, although an unspecified number of U.S. troops are expected to remain.

The Obama administration has repeatedly said that it plans no permanent bases in Afghanistan, but its negotiations with the Afghans about specific numbers, missions and locations have remained secret. Some Afghans, including senior officials, favor permanent bases as an expression of U.S. commitment, while others have said they would prefer no U.S. military presence.

The Taliban, with which the U.S. and Afghan governments hope to negotiate an eventual peace accord, has placed the withdrawal of all foreign military forces at the top of its list of demands. About 100,000 U.S. troops, and 40,000 from NATO and other partners, are now in Afghanistan.

The U.S.-Afghan agreement, similar in concept to one the United States signed with Iraq as it began to wind down its military presence there, is due to be completed this summer.

Ryan C. Crocker, who has been nominated as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, discussed the agreement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, calling it a “political framework document [that] will help normalize our relationship and provide a road map for our political, economic and security cooperation.”

Crocker’s confirmation hearing was a virtual love-fest, as senator after senator expressed admiration for and confidence in the abilities of one of the most senior U.S. diplomats, who was called out of retirement to take over the Kabul mission. Crocker’s last post was Iraq, where he is credited with playing a major role in reversing a war that seemed to be spiraling out of control and with managing the difficult U.S. civilian-military relationship on the ground.

“I’m under no illusions of the difficulty of the challenge,” Crocker told lawmakers who questioned the cost and the length of the Afghan war. “If Iraq was hard — and it was hard — Afghanistan, in many respects, is harder.” But, he said, it is not “hopeless.”

“We’re not out to, clearly, create a shining city on a hill. That’s not going to happen,” he said. But “there needs to be progress.”

In addition to recent military victories, he said, gains have been made on the civilian front, including education projects that now provide schooling for 7 million Afghan children — including 2.5 million girls — and programs that have provided health-care facilities for millions of people nationwide.

The administration took issue Wednesday with some of the conclusions drawn in a report on U.S. reconstruction aid to Afghanistan by the committee’s majority-Democratic staff. Although it praised the education and health programs and other such efforts, the report described much of the $19 billion spent on civilian aid since 2002 as having only limited success, and it questioned whether the programs are sustainable without continued massive flows of U.S. and other foreign funding.

Written responses to the report by Deputy Secretary of State Thomas R. Nides and Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, noted that the Obama administration has already undertaken many of the report’s proposals for increased oversight of spending and building the Afghan government’s capacity to sustain U.S.-funded programs over the long term.

“While we obviously agree with some aspects of it . . . we don’t believe that its assessment of the overall progress is the same as ours,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said of the report.

What does $18B Afghan aid achieve?

A new report by Senate Democrats warns many U.S. aid programs in Afghanistan are unsustainable once the U.S. withdraws.

What does $18B Afghan aid achieve?

A new report by Senate Democrats warns many U.S. aid programs in Afghanistan are unsustainable once the U.S. withdraws.

In Kabul, air pollution a bigger killer than war

War may kill thousands of civilians a year in Afghanistan, but choking air pollution in the capital Kabul is more deadly, experts say.
Signs of the silent killer -- pollutants emitted by old cars, poor quality fuel and people burning trash -- are everywhere on the city's chaotic streets.
Men walking or cycling usually cover their mouths with masks or scarves to keep out the dust. Women clasp blue burkhas to their faces.
"It's not possible to stay healthy without a mask," said Ahmad Wali, a pharmacist who wears his every day, even when working in his store.
"People are stuck with a very big problem. It's difficult to reduce pollution quickly. We have to breathe this air."
The city's primitive and over-stretched hospitals are forced to treat ever increasing numbers of people with respiratory problems.
"I've been sick for three years," said Malalai, an Afghan mother of nine being treated at the Jamhuriat hospital, one of the city's biggest.
"When I talk, I get breathless after two or three minutes. I have chest pains when I try to breathe. I can't walk or stand for a long time and I have no energy."
The figures are stark. Around 3,000 people per year die of air pollution in Kabul, the National Environment Protection Agency said last year.
By comparison, the United Nations says that 2,777 civilians were killed in the war across Afghanistan in 2010.
There are several main causes of air pollution, but underpinning them all is Kabul's rapid expansion as people fled to the capital in search of relative stability amid fighting in many rural areas.
The city was designed for about one million people but is now home to around five million, a figure which the Kabul municipality says has doubled in six years.
Many of the new arrivals live in illegally built slum homes and Kabul's infrastructure struggles to cope.
The city's roads are usually jammed with old and poorly maintained cars imported illegally from countries like Canada, Germany and the United States, often spewing out fumes which are the by-product of poor quality fuel.
Many of the roads are unpaved, meaning that when the cars can move, they throw up dust which adds to the poor air quality.
Households often rely on diesel generators for electricity, while businesses like brick factories and public baths also use them.
During bitterly cold winters, local people often burn anything they can get hold of, including old tyres and plastic, as they struggle to keep warm.
The health ministry estimates that the number of Afghans suffering from respiratory problems has trebled over six years to around 480,000.
Officials admit they are finding it hard to get on top of the problem given the magnitude of issues facing Afghanistan after three decades of war and nearly 10 years after the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban.
Last year, they made Thursdays official holidays in Kabul -- in addition to Fridays -- in a bid to reduce air pollution. A resolution has also been passed to ban businessmen importing old cars.
The mayor's office insists the move has had a "very good effect" in stopping pollution getting worse but could not provide any figures.
"Government vehicles are not allowed to (be used) on holidays and that prevents all the vehicles from moving and is a big help for decreasing the pollution," said spokesman Mohammad Ishaq Samadi.
But Ghulam Mohammad Malikyar, a senior advisor to the National Environment Protection Agency, said: "We're still struggling to put environmental issues and the environment as a priority in national and international strategies.
"The country was at war for the past 30 years and there was very little control over the environment, there was no environmental protection at all."
Doctors warn that unless action is taken, Kabul faces serious problems.
Erfanullah Shifa, a doctor at the Jamhuriat hospital, said up to 20 people a day were registering with respiratory problems.
"If air pollution keeps rising the way it is now, Afghan people will face a health disaster in the near future," Shifa said.

Economic survey uncovers pathetic picture of education in Pakistan
More than half of all rural children in class five in Pakistan are at least three levels behind their grade in reading English and Urdu texts in schools, according to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2010-11.

“Overall percentage of rural children in class 5 reading a class 2 text in Urdu/Sindhi was 52 per cent while for the English text it was 42 per cent. This meant that more than half of all rural children in class 5 in Pakistan were at least three grade levels behind,” said one of the survey`s main findings on education.

It said 43 per cent of the government primary schools did not have safe drinking water and 55 per cent were without proper washroom facilities – problems that have tagged along for decades and not adequately addressed. The survey asserted that education was central to the “development strategy of an economy” playing a vital role in human capital formation.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, officials of the Federal Directorate of Education (FDE) were quick to respond to the findings. “How long will we keeping hearing about problems that have existed for decades and not properly addressed,” said a senior FDE official.

Another pointed out how the government had been neglecting the country`s top most priority. “This is exactly why private schools have opened up in every street, charging exorbitant fee for something that cannot be categorised as quality education,” he said, adding that enrollments in Madrassas were increasing because education system was itself a victim of ill-will in the country.

Sketching a dismal picture, the survey explained that the situation of education sector in Pakistan was not encouraging due to poverty and “depressing economic conditions”.

But above all the survey explained how extremely high portion of the education budget was spent on recurrent heads, mainly comprising salaries in contrast to the meager amount spent on quality improvements, such as teacher`s training, curriculum development, supervision, monitoring etc.

Although the survey, like in the past, emphasised it was necessary the proportion of development spending on education must be increased, large number of institutions across the country were still missing basic infrastructure facilities in this day and age.

The quality of existing learning environment was evident from the fact that nearly 16,000 government schools had no buildings, more than 53,000 had no boundary walls, more than 54,000 schools had no provision of clean drinking water, more than 58,000 were missing latrines and children got education in nearly 100,000 schools that had no electricity.

Despite the fact that the Higher Education Commission (HEC) endeavoured in reshaping human capital with better skills and expertise, the government had reduced its development budget to Rs9.2 billion in 2011-11 compared to Rs11.3 billion in 2009-10 from Rs16.4 billion in 2008-09 due to continued financial vulnerabilities, the survey said.

In 2010-11 allocation made under Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) made for the Ministry of Education`s 86 programmes and projects stood was a little over Rs5 billion. Of which Rs1.7 billion had been released up to January 2011.

However, as under the 18th amendment the ministry had been devolved, no further releases were made.

The ongoing projects and programmes were to be operated by the provincial governmental or relevant ministries in which they have been transferred.

According to the survey, the overall literacy rate (age 10 years and above) was 57.7 per cent (69.5 per cent for male and 45.2 per cent for female) compared to 57.4 per cent (69.3 per cent for male and 44.7 per cent for female) for 2009-10. Literacy remained higher in urban areas (73.2 per cent) than in rural areas (49.2 per cent), and was more prevalent among men (80.2 percent) compared to women (65.5 per cent) in rural areas.

Ambassadorial Nominee Warns of Risk if the U.S. Abandons Afghanistan

President Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Afghanistan offered an unvarnished assessment of the nearly decade-old war on Wednesday as Pentagon officials said that Gen. David H. Petraeus was at least a week away from recommending the number of American troops to come home in an initial withdrawal set for next month.

But as pressure to get out of Afghanistan mounted on Capitol Hill, Ryan C. Crocker, the nominee, warned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in his confirmation hearing that the United States had abandoned Afghanistan once before, after its war with the Soviet Union in 1989, with “disastrous consequences” — the rise of the Taliban.

“We cannot afford to do so again,” Mr. Crocker said.

Mr. Crocker, a former ambassador to Iraq, nonetheless acknowledged a panoply of problems facing Afghanistan, including government corruption he said would lead to “a second insurgency” if left unchecked.

He said the United States’s goal in Afghanistan was merely to help the Afghans create a “good-enough government,” not necessarily a model democracy. While progress has been hard, he said, the situation is not hopeless.

“We’re not out to, clearly, create a shining city on a hill,” Mr. Crocker said.

He faced sharp questions from the committee, particularly from its chairman, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, who expressed a growing sentiment on Capitol Hill that the American commitment in money and troops to Afghanistan “is neither proportional to our interests nor sustainable.” The United States now spends about $10 billion a month in Afghanistan and has 100,000 troops there.

Mr. Crocker testified at a moment when Mr. Obama’s national security team is debating how many American troops will be withdrawn from Afghanistan next month, the date set by the president for the beginning of force reductions after he sent 30,000 additional American troops to stop erosion on the American side in late 2009. Most of those forces were sent to the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, both Taliban strongholds, where the United States was losing the war.

In the months since then, the United States has had military success in both provinces, but in the mantra of commanders, the gains are “fragile and reversible” and they are nervous about risking what they have won by pulling out too quickly.

At the same time, some White House officials have lost patience with the strategy and are urging a steeper withdrawal, particularly since Osama bin Laden’s death in May and growing anger in Congress about the cost of the war.

Pentagon officials said Wednesday that they expected General Petraeus to offer the president several withdrawal options, from high to low. The officials said that a low number would be 3,000 to 5,000 troops departing in July.

Neither the military nor White House officials offered a high number, or, more important, said what the pace of withdrawals of the 30,000 surge forces might be. A separate agreement with the Afghan government calls for the departure of all foreign forces by the end of 2014, but that is not under debate right now.

In preparation for Mr. Crocker’s hearing, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Democratic majority staff issued a comprehensive review of American nation-building efforts in Afghanistan that painted a picture of poor planning and inefficiency.

The use of much of the billions of dollars spent on aid projects has been ill thought out, the review said, while the efforts have drawn the best and the brightest Afghans away from government jobs, where they are badly needed.

Too much money funneled into Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, has fueled corruption and waste, the report said. For example, one current program authorizes the payment of up to $100,000 a month to Afghan provincial leaders for local projects, which the reported called “a tidal wave of funding” that can be difficult to absorb efficiently and fairly.

The State Department and the United States Agency for International Development, known as U.S.A.I.D., now have about 1,300 civilian employees and contractors in Afghanistan, more than double the number, 531, in January 2009. The government “may want to consider a smaller civilian footprint,” the review suggested.

Perversely, American financing is now paying some of the most talented Afghans “inflated salaries,” up to 10 times what they might make working for the Afghan government, and these high salaries encourage “a culture of aid dependency” while undermining efforts to improve the Afghan government, the review said.

The report was not uniformly negative. The authors point to positive effects of the American aid program — a sevenfold increase in the number of children being educated, for example. But they question some central assumptions behind the nation-building work, specifically the notion that poverty, joblessness and lack of education have fueled extremism and insurgency.

World Bank figures quoted in the report seem to contradict that assumption: Some of the most insurgency-plagued Afghan provinces, like Helmand and Kandahar, have relatively low poverty rates, less than 30 percent, while more peaceful provinces in central and northern Afghanistan have poverty rates as high as 58 percent, as in Balkh Province.

“It is generally not the case that a lack of schools or roads drives conflict,” the report quotes Rajiv Shah, the administrator of U.S.A.I.D., as saying. “Often the situation is far subtler, having to do with local power dynamics or long-held grudges.”

The State Department and U.S.A.I.D. now spend about $320 million a month in Afghanistan, for a total of $18.8 billion over the course of the war so far. That makes Afghanistan the single largest recipient of American aid, ahead even of Iraq. Even so, the aid figures are dwarfed by American military spending in the country.

Saudi women take to their cars hoping for change

Fed up with having no driver to ferry her to hospital, Shaima Osama decided to take matters into her own hands and drive there herself, an act of defiance in a country where women are banned from sitting behind the wheel.

Emboldened by the winds of change sweeping the Arab world, which has toppled leaders in Tunisia and Egypt, women in the conservative kingdom see no better time to seek greater freedoms by demanding the right to drive, something they would not have dreamed of doing a year ago.

"I learned that there is no law banning women driving. I took the keys, took a deep breath and started the car," Osama described how she drove in Jeddah last month.

Saudi Arabia has no written ban on women driving but Saudi law requires citizens to use a locally issued license while in the country. Such licenses are not issued to women, making it effectively illegal for them to drive.

Thousands of Saudi men and women joined Facebook groups calling for women's right to drive and challenge the ban. But only a few, like Osama, turned those calls into action.

Osama, 33, who has a severe vitamin D deficiency, drove herself to the hospital, received her vitamin injection but was stopped and arrested by police on her way home. She was released just hours later.

She took to the wheel just days before Saudi authorities arrested another woman, Manal Alsharif, who posted a YouTube video of herself driving in the kingdom's Eastern Province and calling on other women to do the same.

Alsharif has been released but faces charges of "besmirching the kingdom's reputation abroad and stirring up public opinion."

Like Alsharif, Osama learned to drive in the United States.

"The issue of women not being allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia has been in the public domain for more than 35 years," said Khaled al-Dakhil, a Saudi politics professor.

"This is not the first time women had driven cars but you could say that the revolutionary wave has added to momentum and added a new context."

Women also drove cars in 1990, but the government cracked down, arresting and firing from their jobs, an indication of what the authorities may do if more women follow in Osama and Alsharif's footsteps.

The issue has also been raised by King Abdullah, who in an interview in 2005 said it was only a matter of time before women drive in the kingdom but that people have to be ready for it.

Some women already drive in rural areas in the kingdom.


The two women and Facebook book groups are provoking a backlash from conservatives who oppose the idea of women seeking greater freedoms in a country where they must have written approval from a designated male guardian -- a father, husband, brother, or son -- to work, travel abroad and even undergo certain forms of surgery.

Conservatives have launched their own Facebook campaign calling on people to beat up any woman who tries to drive in the street. It has attracted more than 500 supporters.

Some 1,000 women have submitted a petition to King Abdullah supporting the ban against women driving, local media reported.

Saudi Sheikh Abdul Mohsen al-Obaikan, an adviser to the Royal Court, voiced his opposition while clerics have said that women driving would result in them being harassed in the street.

But the reasons appear to have more to do with religion.

"The religious establishment are trying to wrap the issue in the "sharia cloth" but they know that if women are allowed to drive it is a big change and a change in a direction they hate," Dakhil said. "The religious establishment are scared that society is changing faster that it should and that the revolutionary wave is driving this."

Saudi Arabia, a U.S. ally, has not seen the protests that have rocked much of the Arab world and Abdullah ordered handouts exceeding $100 billion earlier this year to discourage dissent.

"It was a good time for the regime to give concessions but they did not," said Mohammad al-Qahtani, head of the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association.

"They can either allow women to drive or there will be more public resentment and there could be public protests in the street if this continues."

But allowing women to drive would also ease the financial burden on households and on the kingdom and would help reduce the kingdom's dependence on millions of foreigners who work as drivers.

Many families in Saudi Arabia have at least one driver with an average salary of around 2,000 Saudi riyals ($533) per month. Those who cannot afford this have a male member of family to drive them, often making it a time-consuming burden.

"I do agree with women driving. It would ease costs but there need to be some rules," said student Talal al-Hussain.

"Women shouldn't drive from 18 years of age like we do, but from their early thirties when they can look after themselves better," he said.

Whether protesting in the street or not, Alsharif has launched a campaign to challenge the ban aimed at teaching women to drive and encouraging them to start driving from June 17, using foreign-issued licenses.

Some women activists say the government's tough stance on Alsharif will deter many women from acting that day.

"What I project to happen is that these terrorizing tactics will minimize the bold activists to a manageable number so that the government is capable of dismantling any and all protests in the first 15 minutes," said female activist Lama Sadik.

Mohammad al-Zulfa, a former member of the advisory shuran council said he hoped the government would react "wisely" and make an announcement allowing women to drive.

"Maybe not now, but in one or two years time, allowing society to be ready for it," he said.

Obama holds big 2012 lead over Republicans

President Barack Obama retains a big lead over possible Republican rivals in the 2012 election despite anxiety about the economy and the country's future, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Wednesday.
Obama's approval rating inched up 1 percentage point from May to 50 percent but the number of Americans who believe the country is on the wrong track also rose as pricier gasoline, persistently high unemployment and a weak housing market chipped away at public confidence.
Obama leads all potential Republican challengers by double-digit margins, the poll showed. He is ahead of his closest Republican rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, by 13 percentage points -- 51 percent to 38 percent.
"Obama's position has gotten a little stronger over the last couple of months as the public mood has evened out, and as an incumbent he has some big advantages over his rivals," Ipsos pollster Cliff Young said.
"Until Republicans go through a primary season and select a nominee, they are going to be at a disadvantage in the head-to-head matchups in name recognition."Obama, who got a boost in the polls last month with the killing of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, is amassing an election campaign warchest likely to be larger than the record $750 million he raised in 2008.
Sarah Palin and Romney lead the Republicans battling for the right to challenge Obama in the November 2012 election.
Palin, the party's vice presidential nominee in 2008, had the support of 22 percent of the Republicans surveyed. The former governor of Alaska has not said whether she will run for president next year.
Romney, who failed in a 2008 presidential bid, had 20 percent support.
Representative Ron Paul, a libertarian Republican from Texas, and former pizza executive Herman Cain were tied for third with 7 percent each.
The Republican candidates are just starting to engage in their slow-starting nomination race. Young said Palin and Romney had a clear advantage at this stage over other challengers in name recognition among voters.
Other surveys have shown Romney in a stronger position. A Washington Post-ABC News poll earlier this week gave Romney a slight lead over Obama among registered voters.
In the Reuters/Ipsos poll, the other Republican contenders fared even worse than Romney's 13-point gap in a match-up with Obama. Palin trailed Obama by 23 points and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was behind by 19 points.
The survey was taken after weak jobs and housing figures released last week showed the U.S. economy is recovering slower than expected. Unemployment rose slightly to 9.1 percent for the month.
The poll found 60 percent of respondents said the country is on the wrong track, up from 56 percent in May but still below April's high of 69 percent. In the latest survey, 35 percent said the country is going in the right direction.
Obama's approval rating has drifted in a narrow range between 49 percent and 51 percent since January, with the exception of April when the first spike in gasoline prices drove his rating lower.
With Congress battling over a Republican budget plan that includes scaling back the federal Medicare health program for the elderly, the poll found a plurality of Americans, 43 percent, oppose the Medicare cuts and 37 percent support them.
The poll, conducted Friday through Monday, surveyed 1,132 adults nationwide by telephone, including 948 registered voters. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Fata journalists continuously facing life threats

Journalists belonging to the tribal areas in general and Khyber Agency in particular have been bearing the brunt of militancy and military operations against the militant organisations.

There is no end in sight to the agony of the journalists covering happenings in the Khyber region as their harassment continues even after they shifted to settled areas, complained a number of newsmen while talking to The News.

Nasrullah Afridi, a correspondent for an Urdu daily, was killed in a recent car bomb attack. Most people say he was killed for not bowing to the pressure of a militant organisation. He left behind a widow and five children, including some mentally-challenged ones.

There is nobody to take care of his family except the deceased’s young son, who is a student. They pointed out that Fazlullah Shinwari, a reporter of a private TV channel, was beaten up in the Khyber Agency in 2010 by unidentified people. No action was taken against the perpetrators.

Qazi Rauf, another journalist from the Khyber Agency, was also beaten up severely in Bara Tehsil of Khyber Agency in the past. Recently, Saleemur Rehman Afridi, a reporter with a private radio channel, was arrested by the Peshawar Police and allegedly tortured.

As a journalist, Saleemur Rehman mostly covered the subject of governance and didn’t file stories about the war on terror because he was of the view that being in the Khyber Agency he didn’t want to suffer.

A number of other journalists in Khyber Agency and other tribal areas have been threatened and had to shift to Peshawar and other cities to avoid harm.

Explosion in Peshawar

Four people were killed and three injured in an explosion in the Matni bazaar in Peshawar on Thursday.The explosion occurred at Ladawar area near a school and towards the end of the Matni bazaar near Peshawar. The explosion was caused by an improvised explosive device (IED). Two nearby shops and two vehicles were damaged in the blast.
The injured were shifted to the Lady Reading Hospital and police cordoned off the area.
The Matni Bazar is located 28 km from the provincial capital.
The Matni area is frequented by residents from nearby Kohat, Peshawar and Khyber Agency as well as locals from the Matni area, who go there to buy daily commodities. A school is situated above the shops that were damaged in the blast, but there have been no reports of casualties from the school since it was closed for summer vacations.
Bomb attacks by militants have become a frequent occurrence in the northwestern areas of the country. On Sunday, six people were killed and seven injured when a timed device went off at a crowded bus stand on the outskirts of Peshawar. At the same time, 18 people were killed in a blast at a bakery in Nowshera.