RAWALPINDI: The government appears to have no clear vision to enroll the seven million out-of-school children, with many of the existing schools lacking infrastructure to accommodate the new comers.
One such school is in Bangash colony, Pirwadhai, where shortage of classrooms and furniture has forced many students to study while sitting on the floor, in the school’s veranda or the courtyard.
Due to lack of interest of the concerned authorities, around seven million children are out of school across the country, which is the second highest figure in the world.
The government boys’ elementary school at Bangash colony is situated next to Pirwadhai bus terminal, and most of the students belong to underprivileged families.
The four-room school was built two years ago, with the efforts of the then local member of provincial assembly (MPA).
It was constructed upon a small piece of land of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa), which had been using the space for its water supplying operations. Now, both, Wasa’s water supplying operation and the school, are functioning in the same building.
“The furniture is not a big deal; we can arrange that. We are, however, facing shortage of rooms for placing the furniture,” said Naeem Iqbal, the headmaster.
He said that despite the shortage of classrooms, the school is not denying admission to anyone. “The school’s doors are open to all students,” he added.
The headmaster further said that due to shortage of classrooms, every day, at least four classes take place either in the veranda or the courtyard of the school, depending upon the weather conditions.
Interestingly, to keep the morale of the students high, the teachers take turns to take their classes outside, so that no class feels discriminated.
Earlier, the primary school Bangash colony was running in a rented building, at another place.
In October 2012, the government shifted the school to its current building. Four months after shifting into the new building, the school’s status was upgraded from primary to elementary by the education department; however, no new classrooms were constructed.
Currently, around 470 students are enrolled in this school, from grade one to seven. Next year, the seventh grade students will be promoted, and the school will have to accommodate them in eighth standard.
“We have three sections of class one, comprising 110 students. We need, at least, three rooms just to accommodate them. Under the current circumstances, it is impossible for us to accommodate all the students in the classrooms,” said a female teacher, Rizwana Kausar.
“I want to be a police officer. I am working hard to achieve my dream, but the environment of the school is not very friendly. Everyday, we have to change our sitting arrangements, some times we have to sit on the rugs under the open sky, and sometimes in the classroom,” said Shahbaz Manga, a student of the first standard.
However, Manga’s school fellow, Shumail Khursheed, seems happy while sitting on the rugs. “In the classroom, I always feel suffocated, but here in the veranda, there is no such issue.”
In the available classrooms, there is no shortage of furniture, but in these rooms, all the students cannot be accommodated.
“Due to shortage of space, in at least one classroom, we avoid using the available furniture, because it takes up larger space than the rugs,” said Zulfikar Ali Satti, a teacher at the school.
When contacted, Executive District Officer Education (EDO) Qazi Zahoorul Haq said the education department was helpless when it came to constructing new school buildings.
“As per the standard operating procedures (SOPs), the community is supposed to donate a piece of land for the construction of a school,” he said, adding that to improve the condition of Bangash colony school, the department will involve local members of the national and provincial assemblies to play a role in acquiring the land.
The EDO further said that, meanwhile, the department will check if there is any space in the existing building for the construction of new classrooms.