Who’s responsible for educating girls of Nathiagali?
By Zehra Qadir
Last week, I escaped from the hectic city life to Nathiagali, situated in Abbottabad district, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Some Pakistani families have been frequenting the Galiyat for five decades and own properties and lodges there. These summer residents have formed the Nathiagali Residents Committee (NRC) to solve a host of problems faced by the community. During my stay, I went with some NRC members to visit the Keiri Reki Girls Secondary School, five kilometres from Kalabagh. This is the only government school for girls within 15 kilometres and has been targeted as a key area for sustainable development by the NRC.
Over the past decade, the government has striven to introduce a series of measures addressing female education and improving girls’ enrolments and literacy rates, but these efforts do not seem sufficient. Socio-cultural and economic forces have hindered the expansion of female education.
The government has formulated the Perspective Development Plan (PDP) for 2010-2011 to visualise long-term macroeconomic and sectoral growth strategies, implemented through operational strategies in a series of three-year rolling plans. So, progress in female education is to be determined by the level of implementation of the PDP, which makes a serious effort to reflect gender concerns.
A major handicap this region faces is the number of teachers and teaching standards. Teacher-training institutions have not been expanded and practice of the rote system still continues. The development of syllabi has also been restricted to arts and minimal effort is given towards science and mathematics. Infrastructure development has also shown slow progress, with a place like Nathiagali having only one government school for girls.
My visit to the Keiri Reki School revealed that the earthquake of 2005 severely affected the toilets and washing facilities there, virtually destroying the toilets. It has been five years since then and the government has yet to fund the school’s needed repair. The NRC is one of the few organisations that have invested in the community, with funds generated by donations from the residents to sustain local projects.
My family and I have taken keen interest in the uplift of this school. My cousin, currently studying abroad, has, in collaboration with an NGO at her university, raised enough money to construct new bathrooms at the school. While experienced collaborators manage construction and school logistics locally, a core operations team of college students raises funds and spreads awareness in their home countries.
Reconstruction of this school is their second project. The renovation will include installation of new bathrooms, a new septic tank, two water tanks and a computer lab.
As I was driving down to the school, I was stunned to find several telecom towers. Ironically, just down the road, 500 girls do not have toilets and water-drinking facilities. With less than 25 percent of girls across Pakistan currently attending secondary school — within Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — 56 percent of girls’ schools lack bathrooms and an additional 45 percent are without drinking water. Some of the girls told me that they do not go to the bathroom until they reach home in the evening.
I also found out that more than 50 percent of the girls had to walk for around two hours to reach the school. The teachers had further complaints — some of them are coming in from Abbotabad, 40 kilometres from the school. This tedious commuting takes place daily due to a lack of teachers and infrastructure facilities within their areas.
As this joint effort by the residents, my family members, and NGOs is finally materialising, we are forming a model school, which the government can follow when building more schools here, and use to restructure the currently functioning schools. Girls’ education is a priority for the Education Ministry and the provincial education departments. If NGOs and residents work closely with the federal government, the future of girls’ education can be improved remarkably.
Source: Daily Times