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A view of the Jufelhurst School in Karachi. The 81-year-old school's building faces the threat of demolition. – Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com
A view of the Jufelhurst School in Karachi. The 81-year-old school's building faces the threat of demolition. – Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com
A view of the Jufelhurst School in Karachi. The 81-year-old school's building faces the threat of demolition. – Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com

Spanning an acre of land, Jufelhurst School is not the type of building one expects to find in central Karachi. Situated near the chaotic marketplace of Soldier Bazaar, stepping into the school grounds is like stepping into another world. The low, historic buildings, banyan trees, and rich foliage are a stark contrast to the high rise apartment blocks that surround the school.

Jufelhurst was built in 1931, on the estate of Sybil D’Abreo, a Goan Catholic whose family had a long history in Karachi. D’Abreo ran the school herself, even naming it after her parents, Julia and Felix. Serving children from all religions, it survived partition, and was nationalized in 1974. Since then, the condition of the building has gradually deteriorated. “The government has a policy that they do not spend money on rented buildings, so day after day it has just got worse,” says Mohammed Shafiq, the school’s principal.

Now, the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) has declared it a dangerous building and ordered its immediate demolition. As a result, the education department has stopped paying the rent.

A corridor leading to classes with deteriorated ceilings that are not being used due to fear of collapse. - Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com

Parents, teachers, and alumni have mounted a campaign to save the school, which currently has 1,700 students. The Heritage Foundation, headed up by architect Yasmeen Lari, is putting forward a case to have it classified as a heritage building, given that it was built before 1947. If this status is granted, it would be protected from demolition, and become eligible for various endowment funds for restoring heritage sites.

The poor state of the school is immediately evident from the stream of sewage that cuts through one of the playgrounds. There are four structures on the grounds, one of which has been closed due to damage. The corrugated iron roof, which replaced the original roof at some point in the past decades, is open to the sky. The resulting rain damage meant that the first floor has fallen in. But, as Lari explains, this is by no means irreversible.

“To say that this building needs to be demolished is ridiculous. The walls are load-bearing – they’re fine – and were built to last. As far as the floors and roofs are concerned, we can rebuild them. It’s only because of this terrible neglect and apathy that they are in this state at all.”

One out of the three labs with deteriorated ceilings. - Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com

Of the other three structures, two are used for teaching, and are fully operational. The third, D’Abreo’s old residence, is a beautiful building that is rendered inaccessible due to plants growing in and around it. However, Lari’s initial assessment is that the walls are in good shape.

This latest demolition order is not the only threat to the school. A claim has also been put forward by the descendants of Sybil D’Abreo’s brother, who now reside in San Diego and claim they have a right to the property. They also want to sell off the land and demolish the school. An attempt at renovation last year was halted by Sajjad Bashir, an attorney also seeking demolition.

Why are so many keen to see the school knocked down? The answer from a group of alumni and school staff is unanimous: “valuable land”. The construction industry is incredibly lucrative, and the area around the school is filled with apartment blocks. Those fighting the demolition suspect that the authorities want to sell off the land to building contractors for yet more residential properties.

A boy practicing math on a blackboard during a lecture at Jufelhurst School in Karachi. - Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com

“All this is basically an attempt to own this extremely expensive property of more than 4000 or 5000 square yards,” says Fahim Zaman, former director-general of the SBCA. “The property is worth billions of rupees. In a roundabout manner, these different threats are just one person, one theme, one group, one vested interest. But this is a neighbourhood school that simply cannot be replaced. There is no space.”

Unsurprisingly, emotions run high. When the school was sealed by the government in September, parents and students ripped the seals off. “The residents of the area took the initiative of breaking the seal out of anger as they felt betrayed,” says Shafiq. As he explains, the stakes for the children concerned are very high.

“There is no government school in the area that we can be merged with or moved to. And honestly, the students don’t even want to go from here. Most of our students belong to families that don’t believe in education, who only agree to send them because we do not charge anything. We have maintained a reputation, so we are able to transcend such narrow mindsets.”

Students attending a class at the Jufelhurst School. - Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com

Alumni going back 50 years have joined together to fight for the school’s survival. “The building has completed 81 years of existence. Now we are in hope it’s able to complete its 100 years with us by its side,” says one former student. Indeed, on top of the educational needs of the community is the historical importance of the building. Not only does it provide an open space for the whole neighbourhood, a welcome relief from the concrete jungle springing up around it, but its very existence contains a story.

“The fact that it was built by someone from a minority community for the purpose of education is a great thing in the province,” says Lari. “Why should we lose these footsteps of history? They tell you what this city is all about. They tell you that all these different communities lived peacefully together. It’s very important to try to save everything that presents Karachi as it was. That is what will lead us to become a city of peace.”

A view of one of the buildings in the Jufelhurst School vicinity. - Photo by Shameen Khan/Dawn.com

The author is a freelance journalist. Twitter: @samirashackle


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Comments (28) Closed



Asif Ali
Oct 19, 2012 04:05pm
We As Pakistanis are not interested in education. In 1985 when india was training its elite to take over the technological world, Which they did, we were in the middle of democracy & democrazy. We are still no where, and will be no where until the people come out and Show some rtespect for the Eduction System. Which is being demoted day by day in Pakistan. If this continues we will be the only nation in the world with the least eduction. I do not want to compare Pakistan with thoses newly born African Nations, I want to compare Pakistan our neighbours India Bangla China and more.... Schools like these should get a make over, They should be brought back form the dead, They should stand out as our History. But .... Who cares about Heritage...... UNLESS.
YA
Oct 18, 2012 04:32pm
Especially in a country where economic collapse is a foregone conclusion, the market forces dictate the course events. I must says its a noble effort to save the build and appreciate Yasmeen Lari good work. Unfortunately the only way to save the land mark is for the school to buy the land. Using the legal system may work temporarily only if there is a political angle. Help raise the money Ms Yasmeen Lari, if not enough to buy the land then enough to give kick backs to the authorities to declare it a heritage building. Money makes the world go round !!!
SHAN
Oct 18, 2012 05:41am
THEY WANT THE LAND TO BUILD AN OTHER COMMERCIAL RESIDENTIAL PLAZA THEY HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH THE SECURITY OF BUILDING.
Shahid Niaz
Oct 18, 2012 06:32am
Corruption and bribery, not education is our priority. The school's demise will provide an acre of prime land to loot and plunder.
Hello1
Oct 18, 2012 06:34am
Sir: Have you not heard of the "land mafia"?
Zersis R Birdie
Oct 18, 2012 06:37am
this article should be sent to the family of the ORIGINAL owner Sybil D
Naeem Malik
Oct 19, 2012 07:11am
Why just to Malala why not also to Aafia who is the daughter of the city and why not to Sadaullah, a fifteen year old, who lost both his legs and was blinded by a US hellfire missile and to the thousands of the victims of the war of terror.
Naeem Malik
Oct 18, 2012 07:58am
I attended this school in the late 50's and early sixties - D'Abroe was still the Principal - Some fond memories of enjoying Aloo Choilais and sucking crushed ice, Would be happy to help in anyway possible from UK to help preserve the buildings and more importantly think of re-introducing the level of education it provided at least in the days I was a pupil at the school. The kids at Jufelhurst in our days were the poorer relations of those who attended the neighbouring Lawrence school. The good thing about Jufelhurst, unlike Lawrence, was that it was co-educational.
arfa.syed
Oct 19, 2012 10:39am
Yes we heard, but they don't know the power of common man. We all Alumni are on the way to saving our school. Its the future of 1700 students. If you are on right nobody stopped you.
Karachiwala
Oct 18, 2012 10:14pm
This nation is dead morally, Pakistan is a fail state in every respect. Longlive land mafia...
Arfa Syed
Oct 19, 2012 11:07am
Jufelarians Alumni also for their campaign.
suresh
Oct 19, 2012 01:16am
This school must have produced so many architect, builders, carpenters, businessmen, it is high time they give back something to help preserve this great school. Even though I do not belong to Pakistan it will be a pleasure to help rebuild this school and would welcome the opportunity to contribute.
Pervaiz Lodhie
Oct 19, 2012 05:18am
This beautiful historical school and its building should be restored and the renewed school should be dedicated to "Malala Yousafzai". Land mafia should not be allowed to destroy history any more.
Samad Chaudhry
Oct 19, 2012 10:25pm
This building must be preserved. I lived in karachi 1947-1959 and it was a beautiful peaceful city. May Allah give us wisdom to save the city and bring peace. Amen!
Naeem Malik
Oct 19, 2012 08:19am
Not in my days - St Lawrence I thought was just across the road - My cousins used to attend St Lawrence and I sometime used to meet them during lunch break - St Patrick is in Saddar and Lawrence and Jufelhurst are in Soldier Bazaar -
Alina Martin
Oct 18, 2012 08:06am
Impressive effort and impressive coverage. Three cheers for the alumni, Yasmin Lari and all those who are making an effort to preserve culture, education, heritage rather than thinking only of their own financial interests.
Nasir
Oct 18, 2012 07:30pm
what a shame, conserve this school and Karachi will conserve a samll part of it's history. Don't let the corrupt politicians and land grabbing (politicians/land mafia/whatever) people destroy this oasis in asphalt city.
F.S.
Oct 18, 2012 04:55pm
Please join the Facebook page for Jufehurst Alumni.
Kamran khan
Oct 19, 2012 08:14am
Its an eye opner for every one!!!!!! This is Karachi not swat and this school is runied by the local talibans
sayed iqbal habib
Oct 18, 2012 11:31pm
MY WIFE AND HER SISTER STUDIED IN THIS SCHOOL . MYY WIFE, YASMEEN (MERCHANT) NOW YASMEEN IQBAL WILL FEEL SAD AND CRY HER SISTER IN LONDON WILL SEE THIS AND WILL FEEL SAME AS THOUSANDS OF EX- STUDENTS. IT IS A PITY . PROPHET MUHAMMED , S.A.S SIAD GO TO CHINA FOR GETTING "ILM" WHERE ISLAMIC GOVERNMENTS OF ISLAMINC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN HAVE DEMOLISHED THE ILM CENTRE. TE NON MUSLIM BUILT A SCHOOL AND WE STARTING WITH Z A BUTTO DESTROYED. THE MATTER WENT IN DEFAULT AND THIS IS THE CONDITION. IT IS PITY ANS SHAMEFUL. I HOPE MY SCHOOL IN LAHORE ( ST. ANTHONY'S HIGHT SCHOOL) DOES NOT ALSO GO IN DEFAULT. THE CATHOLIC MISSIONARY DOES NOT SURRENDER IF ANOTHER BHTTTO DOES THE SAME. ALLAH SAVE PAKISTAN , ALLAH PROTECT INSTITUTIONS OF ''ILEM 'SAYED IQBAL HABIB. TUCSON. ARIZONA .USA
Hamad Ali
Oct 18, 2012 08:26pm
Dear Mr Malik, I am working for the preservation of the school, with Jufelhurst Alumni where we have many old students with us and we need contacts of old student to share old information with us. please join us.
Ashraf K
Oct 18, 2012 12:07pm
Sad. But what is a school when an entire nation is falling apart.
Iftikhar Habib Khan
Oct 19, 2012 05:32am
I salute you my baitee Samira for bringing to our notice the history of Jufelhurst School. I thank Yasmeen Lari sahiba trying to save the school.The last para "The fact that it ---------------- will lead us to become a city of peace
AHA
Oct 18, 2012 07:17pm
So sad, but so true.
EA
Oct 18, 2012 11:00am
Bravo...DAWN and YASMIN LARI
Hamad Ali
Oct 18, 2012 08:30pm
This is one and primary reason - when you don't care of your education system this happens. We are only falling down because our education standard is falling down and cost of education is on hike.
Hamad Ali
Oct 18, 2012 08:36pm
yes - but after the death of Sybill D'Abreo her sister Anna Pace was in contact with school management but after many years of her death in 2000, from nowhere comes her cousins wants to sell this property.
Agha Ata (USA)
Oct 18, 2012 02:06pm
Please preserve this building as it is. How vividly it depicts how Pakistan is, and how it is suppised to be.