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KARACHI: The dusty winding road lined with thorny keekar in Walidad Jokhio leads you to the Government Girls Elemen­tary School. On Wednesday, there are several students there with dreams about their future, which they happily share with you.

Some want to be teachers, some doctors and some engineers. Two girls talk about joining the police force as another airs her desire to be an air hostess and travel the world. And among them there is also young Shahnoor, who intends to study very hard and become a judge one day.

The school which was a primary school offering education up to class five only until April this year has now been upgraded to class eight thanks to a grant from the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Nazia Seher of JICA said they had set aside 1.8 billion yen for upgrading 54 such schools in the rural districts of Sindh. “There are hardly any middle schools for girls here and most of them drop out after primary level due to this,” she said.

‘To monitor these schools, there is a Government of Japan monitoring system in place’

JICA’s southern rural project comprising 29 schools in six districts has already been completed and handed back to the Sindh government. “We work in conjunction with the Education and Literacy Department of Sindh,” Ms Seher said. “We have been assured by the education department that there is no shortage of staff for the schools.”

The staff, especially the teachers and principals, are appointed through Institute of Business Administration, Sukkur.

The schools that are upgraded do not just get more classrooms but washrooms, multipurpose rooms, computer labs and libraries. To monitor these schools after the additions and upgrading there is a Government of Japan monitoring system in place that follows all their projects. And the districts where the schools are situated also monitor them.

District Education Officer of Jamshoro, Ghulam Sarwar Mallah, said that schools were supposed to upgrade gradually with class six added the first year. “But with so much demand from older students too, they decided to have multi-grade classes with students of classes six, seven and eight all studying together bringing up enrolment in these schools,” he said.

Meanwhile, Saira Bibi, a teacher at the Government Girls Elementary School Walidad Jokhio, smiles when she hears her students talk about what they want to do in life. About Shahnoor, she says that the girl walks some four kilometres every day to make it to start off school at 8am.

“I began my teaching career in 1987 and have seen too many girls give up on their dreams after finishing primary school. I have also taught Shahnoor’s mother. I remember what a brilliant child she was. She, too, could have become a doctor, engineer or judge but for the lack of opportunity offered to her. Today her daughter talks of pursuing her education and studying law. I hope she can realise her dream some day,” she said.

JICA’s various projects for the promotion of education in Pakistan include funds for the reconstruction of the school building of Idara Al-Khair Welfare Society near Jam Chakra village in Karachi’s outskirts. The reconstruction of the school building has been greatly benefiting the surrounding population that had difficulty in accessing quality education.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2017