SHERGARH: With little satchels around their shoulders, around 200 primary school girls go to a private residence in Gul Ahmad Kalay in Shergarh, Mardan every morning to study. They do not have any functional school building devoted for this purpose. The only government girls primary school building in the vicinity is on the verge of collapse and the government has not taken any steps for its renovation or reconstruction. However, the local legislator has claimed he had approved plans for work.
According to the residents of Gul Ahmad Kalay, the government constructed the two-room primary girls school in 1974 when the owner, Haji Gul Muhammad, provided the land voluntarily. They said during the past 41 years, no maintenance was carried out and the building remained without boundary walls.
“The school is located in the centre of the village and it is difficult for women to work at the school without the protection of surrounding walls,” said one of the locals.
According to another resident, teaching still continued despite the lack of a boundary wall but ever since the walls of the two rooms started collapsing, the building has been deserted.
“We would rather have our children illiterate than dead,” said one parent who stopped sending his children to school. He said given its poor condition, the school building can collapse at any time.
Currently, two schoolteachers have set up a school on a property taken from residents on a temporary basis. Even though people in Gul Ahmad Kalay immensely appreciate the efforts of the teachers, the lack of rooms becomes a real problem when rain falls or weather conditions become extreme.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Gul Muhammad said the current school building is in the middle of the village and if the government wanted to make another building somewhere else in the village, he was willing to provide more land for it. “This is the only girls school in the area and I am more than happy to offer any assistance to the education department for a brighter future for these girls,” he said.
Future at risk
According to the residents, the children had been shifted from the school to the new temporary building around two months ago but none of the government officials had taken any notice so far.
They said Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Education Muhammad Atif who belonged to the same district had done nothing.
“Even though K-P government has declared an education emergency, the school building is still in a dilapidated state,” said a worried parent.
Beacon of hope?
Takht Bhai Deputy DEO Miss Abida said she had been recently transferred to the area and did not know much about the current situation of the girls primary school. Another district education official, requesting anonymity, said, “The construction and repair work of the school is not the responsibility of the education department and the most that can be done is inform the government about the lack of space and demand that they fulfil their responsibilities.”
When contacted, Takht Bhai MPA Jamshed Khan Mohmand expressed surprise at the school’s condition.
“I approved the plan for two new rooms and other infrastructure for the school earlier, myself,” he said. “I am not sure why the construction has not taken place but I will check the progress of renovation with the education department.” Mohmand added he was also willing to provide more funds for the repair and construction of the school.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 16th, 2015.