Pakistan

Two years on, flood-affected communities in Pakistan find hope in schools

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Pakistan/2013/Asad Zaidi
Ghulam Rasool, 11, reads a passage during classes at the Gul Muhammad Hathiar primary school in Thatta district, Sindh province.

By Zeeshan Suhail

For children whose families were displaced by the 2010 floods in Pakistan, the return to school brings a welcome routine.

SINDH PROVINCE, Pakistan, 10 June 2013 - Ghulam Rasool, 11, doesn’t remember much about the floods that ravaged his village in Thatta district, Sindh province, forcing his family to flee.

What he does remember vividly is the time he spent in a camp for internally displaced persons in nearby Makli town, where he and his family sought refuge. He remembers school most of all. 

“I studied at the camp school for two months,” Ghulam says. “But there was no school when I returned to my village.”

Classes eventually resumed, and Ghulam’s excitement is noticeable now that he’s back in his element, studying, playing games and making friends at the Gul Muhammad Hathiar primary school. “I like maths and want to be a doctor when I grow up,” he says.

Ghulam is one of thousands of children whose education was interrupted by the 2010 floods. The flood emergency exacerbated an already difficult situation. Girls are the most excluded group from education in Pakistan, as are the poorest children and those from rural areas. Official statistics from 2011 indicate that 59 per cent of the 6.4 million children of primary school age are out of school; 65 per cent of this group are girls.

Leadership and life skills

Now back in school, Ghulam can focus on making his dreams come true. His passion for education comes partly from his own household – his father is a teacher who encourages him to study.

“Here we are taught educational games, how to work in groups and how to become effective junior leaders,” Ghulam says. UNICEF works in collaboration with local partners to impart crucial life skills and knowledge that the children then transfer to their families, including lessons on conflict resolution, team building, and health and hygiene.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Pakistan/2013/Asad Zaidi
Anisa, 8, attends school in Hussain Muhammad Kanad village in Thatta district, Sindh province. In 2011, 59 per cent of 6.4 million children of primary school age were out of school - nearly two thirds of them girls.

In nearby Hussain Muhammad Kanad village, 8-year-old Anisa has mastered these skills well enough to be appointed one of the class’s junior leaders. These pupils are tasked with passing along to their peers the skills they have learned.

Anisa guides her fellow pupils outside and asks them to make a circle, where they proceed to play games with different coloured balls representing various life skills. Her voice is clear and assertive, and she plays the games with enthusiasm.

“My father is a tailor. He cannot afford to send us far,” says Anisa. “This school was the best option for us. Now I’m worried about what I will do once I graduate, since there is no middle school nearby.” Indeed, many girls are worried about how they will continue their education.

Spike in enrolment

In Anisa’s old school, there were only 10 to 12 children taught by two teachers. In the new school, there are over 72 students and four teachers. The new school still needs to improve its boundary wall and install some more lights and fans, but the School Management Committee stressed that if they received further support, they’d ask the community to chip in by purchasing nearby land and expanding the school.

“In emergency and early recovery situations, education is vital,” says Lila Ram, UNICEF Education Officer in Sindh. “It provides physical, psychosocial and cognitive protection, which can be both life-sustaining and life-saving.”

UNICEF helps children cope in the aftermath of disasters by giving a sense of normalcy, stability, structure and hope for the future. But if these children are to remain in school, continued assistance is required. They have the will – now they just need a way.


 

 

UNICEF Photography: Flood response in Pakistan

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