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Netherlands Development Minister pledges support for education in Pakistan’s earthquake-affected areas

© UNICEF Pakistan/2005/Marroquin
The Netherlands’s Development Minister, Agnes van Ardenne, talks to a group of boys displaced by the earthquake during her visit to the Hassa relief camp in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province.

By Javier Marroquin

MANSEHRA, Pakistan, 12 December, 2005 – The Netherlands's Development Minister, Agnes van Ardenne, has pledged a further €30 million to the large-scale rebuilding of the education sector in earthquake-devastated parts of Pakistan. 

During a recent visit in the North West Frontier Province, the Minister toured the town of Balakot – which was severely damaged by the 8 October disaster – as well as the Hassa tented camp to witness first hand the extent of the devastation.

Prior to the earthquake the town of Balakot counted a population of 25,000 people. Today, not much remains. It was in Balakot that Ms. van Ardenne spoke to 25-year-old Gulsham, a mother of three now living in a ramshackle shelter. Gulsham described how she lost her house and all her possessions in the disaster. She also nearly lost her husband, who is still in the field hospital, recovering from injuries caused by falling debris.

Re-establishing education in a tented camp

At the Hassa relief camp, which presently houses 2,000 displaced people, Ms. van Ardenne was briefed about camp issues by the Pakistani military officer in charge, Major Azmat. She learned about the ongoing relief effort carried out by aid agencies, the Pakistani Army  and by the earthquake survivors themselves. “My Government has committed €30 million for the purpose of rebuilding education in the affected areas of Pakistan,” said the Minister. “I offer encouragement to you to restart your lives again and make a strong effort to get back to normality.”

While visiting the tented camp’s education facilities, the Minister talked to teacher Sabina Kowal and asked her about available learning material and school books. She also spoke to students like Saniza and Nighat, both 8 years old, about their problems and their expectations. “The biggest problem is we don’t have enough books for everybody,” one of the girls said.  “Sometimes we share them among three or four students.” When the Minister asked the girls what they wanted to do in the future, they answered: “We would like to be doctors – if we can continue studying.”

Towards the end of her visit Ms. van Ardenne thanked the teachers working in the camp. She used that opportunity to stress the need for girls to attend schools as a vital way to improve their chances in life.

In the days immediately following the disaster UNICEF received €10 million for emergency education measures.



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