|© UNICEF Pakistan/2007/Pasha|
|Halima, 7, lost her family home and her school to flooding in southwest Pakistan in July but now is back in a temporary school, which she is eager to see replaced with a permanent one.|
By Fatima Raja
BALOCHISTAN, Pakistan, 3 October 2007 – It is early morning in the village of Dat and students are still making their way to school, blue satchels slung over their shoulders.
Seven-year-old Halima’s eyes gleam with mischief as she nears the one-room schoolhouse. Inside, she takes out an exercise book inscribed with carefully formed English and Urdu letters.
“I like to practice on my slate after school,” she says with an infectious smile.
Homes and schools washed away
Just three months ago, Halima’s home was lost to floodwaters that burst from between two hillsides in a gush rising 10 metres high. As her family and friends watched, the water washed away their mud houses, their livestock and crops, and their belongings, all within 20 minutes.
“Our house was in the valley,” Halima says. “Our school was next to our house. You can’t even tell where it was.”
The July floods destroyed 216 schools and badly disrupted activities at 1,169 others in Balochistan Province, where only a quarter of children attend primary school at all.
Temporary schools and supplies
In Dat village, UNICEF worked quickly with the survivors to set up two temporary schools made of sturdy frames with thick twig matting. Each school received a School-in-a-Box kit with books and supplies for 80 children, as well as sports and recreation equipment.
|© UNICEF Pakistan/2007/Pasha|
|A girl wields a cricket bat in Dat village, where UNICEF has supplied School-in-a-Box kits and recreation equipment for flood-affected children.|
Halima’s uncle, Abdul Wahab, is a member of the village education committee that monitors the schools and makes sure children attend classes. As Mr. Wahab inspects the temporary school shelters with his niece, she crouches down to poke an unwary student through the twig walls. There is a muffled giggle, but her uncle doesn’t notice.
“We’re going to cover them with mud for now, inside and outside,” he says of the structures. “Later, we will build stone structures so we can keep the schools going.”
Increase in school enrolment
In fact, in the aftermath of the flooding, Dat has already done more than just “keep the schools going.”
In Khuzdar District, where the village is located, only 1 in 5 boys and 1 in 12 girls attends primary school. Dat itself is a rare exception. Before the floods, this was a focus village for girls’ primary education. More girls attended the primary school here than boys – even though, lacking a separate building, they had to come for the hot afternoon shift.
The reason was simple, says UNICEF facilitator Nabi Buksh Baloch: “Girls were given the supplies they needed for school.”
In the new village schools, there is enough space to allow boys and girls to attend at once, rather than in shifts. In addition, the new supplies are available for both boys and girls. As a result, the number of children attending school actually rose after the floods.
Indeed, by improving schooling and providing school supplies to boys and girls alike, UNICEF hopes to increase enrolment throughout the area by 10 per cent.
“A new girl started just yesterday,” Halima says before running outside with her friends for recess.