|UNICEF-supported, newly constructed primary school for girls is inaugurated at Banaw Langla, Pakistan.|
BANAW LANGLA, Pakistan, 13 March 2009 – A catastrophic earthquake struck the northern areas of Pakistan on 5 October 2005, killing 73,000 and leaving 3 million homeless. Nearly 6,000 schools – the bulk of the region’s educational infrastructure – were destroyed, affecting approximately 450,000 primary school-aged children.
UNICEF responded by setting up temporary tent schools, constructing transitional shelters, training teachers and supplying school materials. UNICEF also pledged to reconstruct some of the destroyed schools with earthquake-resistant permanent buildings.
One such school opened recently in Banaw Langla village. The community is located in Jhelum Valley, about two and a half hours’ drive from Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, which bore the brunt of the earthquake.
Inaugurating a new school
The only girls’ primary school in this village – with about 35 pupils and one teacher – was destroyed in the quake. The affected children had since been attending a tent school set up by UNICEF in an open area of the village.
In the temporary schools, children and teachers were exposed to a harsh climate and a challenging learning environment, but the process of education continued while a permanent school building was being constructed.
Recently, the UNICEF-supported permanent school building of the Government Girls Primary School, Banaw Langla, was inaugurated. The Minister for Health and Social Welfare of the Government of the Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Dr. Najib Naqi, and UNICEF Representative in Pakistan Martin Mogwanja were present for the occasion.
The school building has been constructed at a cost of $72,000 with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency, Australian Aid for International Development, the European Union and the Netherlands.
’Now we enjoy learning’
Mr. Mogwanja mingled with students, teachers and parents at the ceremony.
“This school will take 56 girls,” he said. “On this very site, in fact, there was a school which was knocked down by the earthquake – a small one-room school. Now we have a two-room school with proper water and sanitation facilities. And this is giving the community back the focus for the education of their children.”
The young students were delighted to have a new school building. In a special assembly held in the courtyard, they prayed for their new school and were beaming with determination to complete their education.
“Earlier we had to sit on the muddy ground,” explained Kanwal, a fifth-grade student. Now such a beautiful building has been constructed. We have space to play and a lovely bench to sit on. And now we enjoy learning.”