Family with six children in danger as girls’ school building is falling apart after rain

August 22, 2019

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BLAME it either on the unscrupulous builder or the rain, the building is falling apart both inside and out.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
BLAME it either on the unscrupulous builder or the rain, the building is falling apart both inside and out.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: The building of a girls’ school in Korangi Crossing’s Bhitai Colony is crumbling fast. Its fallen portions can be seen even from the outside of the compound. However, the scene inside is more horrible: the rooms are filled with the rubble from the falling ceiling plaster. One of the rooms has been partly cleared to make it liveable, though very dangerously, for a poor family with six children. The same is the situation of the corridor — the partly missing plaster has exposed the rusty iron bars in the ceiling.

That the school management has shifted its pupils to the other block is proof that they realise the danger the children as well as teachers are faced with. But allowing a family with young children, the oldest being around 11, is unjustifiable.

“We have asked them to vacate the place after the recent rain devastated the building. It was already falling in parts, but the rain has precipitated its rot,” said a teacher named Aasia Hameed. “We have accommodated them because they help us in sweeping the school building as we have no sweeper for the job. Besides, there is no gatekeeper or security guard to take care of the school property.”

‘We are only six teachers taking care of the nine classes, accommodated in seven classrooms’

The head of the middle school is on maternal leave and will resume work in October. The teacher standing in for her, Ms Hameed, has no qualms in saying that she is a PST (primary school teacher). “We are only six teachers taking care of the nine classes,” she says.

Ms Razia, the senior-most teacher, also admits that although she has recently been promoted to Grade 16, she is also a PST. “In fact, we all are PSTs and officially ineligible to teach middle-class students. But we do out of compulsion,” she says.

“In the block in use, there are only seven rooms where we accommodate nine classes,” she adds.

A plaque shows that this block was inaugurated by then mayor Syed Mustafa Kamal in 2009. It started as a primary school in the portion which is now in a dilapidated condition.

Ms Razia is witness to how the school developed from primary to the elementary level. “There was just a skeletal structure left abandoned to drug addicts before a social worker highlighted the matter in the media and the then woman EDO took notice of it and helped complete the project,” she says.

BLAME it either on the unscrupulous builder or the rain, the building is falling apart both inside and out.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
BLAME it either on the unscrupulous builder or the rain, the building is falling apart both inside and out.—Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

Tasleem Shafiq, the housemaid living there with her rickshaw driver husband and six children, says she has begun looking for another accommodation. “I have started packing my things. But I’m waiting for Madam to resume work. She had assigned me the responsibility to look after the school when it’s off and staff is gone home.”

A big chunk of the boundary wall has also fallen and the gap is filled with twigs and branches.

After a burglary in the school, when its fans, water pump, tube-lights and other fixtures were taken away, this poor family was accommodated both for help and on humanitarian grounds. The family is a great help for the school management in the absence of an official security guard, sweeper etc. The woman daily sweeps the two floors of the new block as well as her own area of residence.

Shafiq, who had just driven in his rickshaw, showed this writer a photocopy of the purported permission letter from an education official allowing them to stay on the headmistress’s request.

Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2019