A teacher takes a class in the open in Hanjoo area of Battagram. —Dawn
A teacher takes a class in the open in Hanjoo area of Battagram. —Dawn

BATTAGRAM/MANSEHRA: Over 100 school buildings destroyed in the Oct 2005 earthquake in Battagram district haven’t been rebuilt yet forcing students to attend classes in the open.

The Earthquake Reconstruc-tion and Rehabilitation Authority insisted that the unavailability of funds had delayed reconstruction.

The 2005 earthquake had destroyed 529 schools in the district.

Among them is the Government Primary School, Hanjoo, which hasn’t been rebuilt in 14 years.

Head teacher Haroon Rasheed told Dawn that classes were held in the open and whenever it rained, the rooms of a nearby mosque were used for the purpose.

He said many students absented themselves from school in inclement weather.

The head teacher said after earthquake struck the region, some schools got shelters to hold classrooms but his school didn’t get any.

Erra blames delay for lack of funds

He said the last government had sanctioned Rs1.4 million for toilet construction, water supply and installation of a solar panel system but the absence of a school building led to its transfer to other schools.

Mr Rasheed said a proposal to use the money for putting up classrooms was shot down.

APTA general secretary Javed Iqbal criticised the government over failure to reconstruct schools even 14 years after the earthquake and said delay in the reconstruction of schools adversely affected the cause of education in the district.

When contacted, Erra programme manager Mohammad Jaffar complained about lack of funds for the schools rebuilding and said the authority got Rs150 million for the purpose in the current fiscal.

He said of 529 quake-hit schools in the district, 418 were handed over to the education after reconstruction, while 22 more would be rebuilt in the current financial year.

He said work on the rest would be carried out afterward.

Meanwhile, Erra chairman Lt-General Mohammad Afzal said the New Balakot City housing project was being turned into a tourism-friendly zone of international standard with investment opportunities for local and foreign companies.

“The New Balakot City housing project is going to be the country’s first-ever tourism friendly zone, where tourists especially foreigners will have everything, which is available in resorts across the world,” local resident Mohammad Tahir quoted Lt-Gen Mohammad Afzal as telling him and other visitors from Balakot during a meeting.

Mr Tahir told reporters in Balakot on Tuesday that the visitors apprised the Erra chief of their problems.

He said the Erra chairman revealed that the New Balakot City project would be completed in two years through a public-private partnership.

Meanwhile, the Erra claimed that it had reconstructed 98 per cent of Mansehra infrastructure destroyed in the 2005 earthquake.

A report released by the District Reconstruction Unit on 14th anniversary of the earthquake said only 62 schools and two other government buildings had yet to be rebuilt in the district.

Published in Dawn, October 8th, 2019