Real lives

Emergency Response Human Interest Stories

Country Programme Human Interest Stories

2008 Floods in Pakistan

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Flood-affected children get a second chance to attend school

© UNICEF Pakistan/2012/Suhail
Farhat, middle, enjoys a light moment with a friend and fellow schoolmate. On her left is the social mobiliser.

By Zeeshan Suhail

Rajanpur district, Pakistan, December 17 2012 – Farhat, 14,sits in the sweltering heat, with a notebook in her hand, keenly awaiting her lesson on a hot summer day. She is the oldest student in this school, and certainly one of the brightest. She was admitted in the 2010-2011 school year, and within a year and half, she progressed to the third grade owing to her keen interest and eagerness to study. Her father, Ghulam Abbas, is a father of eight and works as a mason in their village, Basti Poly, located in Rajanpur district. He earns an average of USD3 a day when he has a steady income, but that has been infrequent due to the economic downturn.

Despite being heavily affected by the 2010 floods, Ghulam and his wife believed that the children needed to be educated. Farhat’s previous school was destroyed, and the structure which replaced the school was insufficient for the growing number of students. As part of the project, social mobilizers met with local community members and realized that there was immense interest from girls who wanted to continue learning. UNICEF constructed transitional school structures (TSS) in southern Punjab, including one in Farhat’s village.

Education, interrupted

The devastating floods that hit Pakistan in July 2010 paralyzed the already over-burdened education system. When schools re-opened after the summer break in 2010, most of them were still inundated with flood water. In areas where water had receded, the school buildings were badly damaged and covered with mud. During the 2012 flood emergency, TSS often remained the only un-flooded schools in the affected areas.

UNICEF developed several TSS as an innovative, cost efficient solution to jumpstart the education of children whose schools were affected by the floods. In order to create a learning environment conducive to student satisfaction, high quality insulated material is used in the construction of the TSS and the final approved design of the TSS provides room for cross ventilation and appropriate light. Each TSS includes child friendly furniture, attractive play material, essential school supplies and introduction of ECE classes.

Girls’ empowerment through education

Farhat’s community benefited greatly from the newly constructed TSS. "We want to learn, but there are no schools for girls in our area, and we cannot walk 10 miles to go to a school", Farhat says. Her family allowed her to study at the TSS afterUNICEF introduced an Early Childhood Education (ECE) class in the Basti Poly government primary school through provision of a female ECE care giver and attendant throughout 2011, but later her parents allowed her to continue her education when they found out that the son of a respected teacher from a nearby village was teaching the students. Slowly and steadily, the trust of the community increased, and more students enrolled; the results were extraordinary. Farhat single-handedly recruited all her friends, who now enthusiastically attend classes in their two room temporary structure. "In our locality, the elders don’t educate their daughters because they were not in favour of girls’ education. Now they have realized that girls should also receive education. Our fellow students have also been counselled to accommodate us, and respect us, and so we don’t face any problems while in school. Thanks to the social mobilizers and members of the youth group, the number of girls in our school has increased."

With community support, children go back to school

Farhat is content with her school, but she is even more excited about what the future holds for her. She believes she will get an education regardless of what happens, but she is adamant about the community’s need for female teachers and child-friendly schools. Indeed, the school which UNICEF has constructed for her community has three rooms with good ventilation and natural light, four bathrooms (with a ramp for access by children with special needs), a water storage tank and lots of recreation space for children to play.

© UNICEF Pakistan/2012/Suhail
A student at Government Primary School Basti Poly proudly poses with his schoolbag.

What is most special about these schools is the support they enjoy from the community. Many of the schools were constructed on land donated by residents of the villages themselves. The land in one village actually had a house constructed on it, which was demolished and re-constructed by the owner at a nearby location to make space for the school. It’s no small wonder then thatFarhat would like to be a teacher when she grows up, after having been raised in a community that places such importance on education.

GulnazJabeen Khan, Education Officer at UNICEF, is pleased with the progress which both Farhat has made, as well as the community. "The enthusiasm and will of people of Basti Poly to educate their children, girls as well, is exemplary. It is an indication that people, of even such a far off, remote under served and under privileged area are now realizing the urgent need of time - education for their children," said Gulnaz. "It is this will that led the community to donate land, sacrificing the standing crop, realizing that the present small financial loss will form a base for better future gains for generations."

Generous support from OPEC

Generous support for this project was provided by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development. As a result, nearly 400 schools were rehabilitated in the flood-affected communities of Rajanpur and Rahim Yar Khan, Punjab province, with the aim of providing high quality and equitable access to learning opportunities in a protective environment.

 

 

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