Hope returns for children after the floods as new prototype school constructed in southern Punjab
By A Sami Malik
This story is part of a special series highlighting the experiences of Pakistani children and women who were affected by the devastating 2010 monsoon floods that struck Pakistan one year ago.
Mullanwala, Muzaffargarh district, Punjab: “Before the floods, this village had a one-room Masjid (mosque) school. Most of the children sat under a tree. We now have this beautiful school and the children love it,” says Mukhtar Ahmad, headmaster of the Mullanwala Government Primary School. “The flood water took everything away from us but gave our children the opportunity for better education.”
The unprecedented floods of 2010 in Pakistan forced the bulk of the population of Mullanwala to move to safer ground. When flood waters receded and people returned, they discovered that not a single structure in the village was standing. Not even the one-room Masjid school.
As people started to rebuild, UNICEF and its implementing partner, Jahandad Society for Community Development (JSCD), established a Temporary Learning Centre (TLC), or tent school, in the village. The Education Department, Punjab granted Mullanwala TLC the status of a Government Primary School and the enrollment reached 217. Now, the TLC has turned into Transitional School Structure (TSS), or semi-permanent school buildings, at Mullanwala.
As part of its initiative to quickly provide improved education facilities to the flood-affected children, mass construction of 500 Transitional School Structures by December 2011 is underway.
This three-room structure and compound has all the essential amenities, including safe drinking water and sanitation, adequate school supplies and learning material and a ‘Child Friendly Schooling Approach”, promulgated by UNICEF and the Government of Punjab, which has resulted in a substantial increase in enrollment. The Mullanwala primary school now has 361 students, many of which had never been to a proper school before the floods. Shahbaz (11), a grade 3 student, is one of them.
Having received his early informal education in the Masjid school, Shahbaz’s first exposure to formal education was in the UNICEF supported Mullanwala TLC.
“Before the floods, I used to go to a one-room school (a mosque school which provided informal education). When the floods came, we moved to high ground in Muzaffargarh. When we returned after the floods, our school had been destroyed. Then, we got a tent school, books, bags and everything else. Later, they made us this school building (Transitional School Structure). We are getting a good education and we are very happy. We thank UNICEF for this,” says Shahbaz.
Hina Farooq is the Project Coordinator for UNICEF’s implementing partner Jahandad Society for Community Development. She has been involved with the TSS project since September 2010 and feels very proud of what has been achieved.
“Mullanwala Government Primary School is more than just a primary school. It is the hub of learning. With UNICEF’s support, we have introduced the concept of ‘Child Friendly Schooling’ to students, teachers and community members. Teaching without corporal punishment is something new in this environment. Since children don’t get beaten up in school, parents are also learning that physical punishment is detrimental to a child’s upbringing,” says Hina.
“Early Childhood Education in Government Primary School Mullanwala prepares children of 3 to 5 years of age for formal education. Youth groups that include boys and girls of 13 to 18 years-of-age help us with management issues and motivate parents in Mullanwala and surrounding villages to send their primary age group children to school.”
UNICEF’s Education Officer, Yasir Arafat, considers the Mullanwala TSS a true prototype. He says, “This school is a great example to be replicated in other flood-affected areas. It has motivated the entire community towards education. The increase in enrolment has convinced us to build two more rooms here - work on these will be starting shortly. The Education Department has also deputed another teacher for this school.”