Every time when it is raining or the winter is extremely cold, it gets cramped in many schools in northern Pakistan. All classes that normally can take place outside in the various areas of the school compound then have to squeeze in the available classrooms and tents.
The elementary school students sit close to one another and – despite the lack of space – try to concentrate on the words of their teacher. The heavy monsoon rains last summer have even worsened the situation once more. Many school buildings built near rivers or mountainsides were destroyed or damaged due to mudslides, roofs started leaking and the walls became damp from the humidity. It’s not a healthy environment for the children to study.
It is also raining in March 2011 when I visit the mixed state elementary school which Malteser International will rehabilitate and expand in Qambar. The hillside has become slippery; one can easily make out the path that is used by the water to flow down the hill.
The teaching staff have assembled in the school building and have a lot of questions to ask the foreign visitor, for example: How many years does a teacher have to study in Germany? When do the schoolchildren start learning English? Are teachers allowed to hit the students during lessons?
We are sitting in the teachers’ room – a small room besides the two classrooms. Its construction has been financed by the teachers themselves with their earnings. The village community is also very committed to “their” school and has started to build an additional classroom.
The expertise of Malteser International is highly appreciated and the teachers are very grateful for the assistance. Malteser International is not only rehabilitating the school building in Qambar but also in three other nearby villages. The new buildings and sanitation facilities will withstand earthquakes, floods and heavy rains and offer better learning conditions for the children.
The girls in Marghuzar are also looking forward to studying in their new school building as they love to attend classes – even if they have to walk up to one hour every morning to get to school. At first, they are somewhat shy, but then they start telling about their school and what they want to be when they grow up: teachers, medical doctors and even a potential engineer can be found among the seven to 12 year-old girls. And even if many of them later on will become “only” a housewife: their yearning for knowledge and education is evident.
Malteser International’s commitment will also improve the teachers’ working conditions. Less noise due to less students in the classrooms, a recreation room and own sanitation facilities will ease their work. Nevertheless, it’s above all the future of their students that matters for them. Thanks to the new classrooms, they will be able to accept more children and thus offer a basic education for even more girls in Swat.
Christine Prokopf, May 2011
translated by Petra Ipp-Zavazal and Joice Biazoto
Malteser International rehabilitates four schools in the Swat District (Khyber Pakthukhwa Province, Northwest Pakistan) that were affected by the floods in summer 2010 or the fighting between army and militants in 2009: The mixed primary school at Qambar (coeducation) and the girl's primary schools in Islampur, Marghuzar and Kokarai are expanded and equipped with better sanitary facilities and school furniture. 1,900 school children benefit of these efforts.