A task half done

October 10, 2019

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HUNDREDS of schools in KP hit by the earthquake in 2005 have yet to be restored. Lack of funds is a major problem. Some 3,600 schools spread over the badly affected districts of Abbottabad, Mansehra, Shangla, Battagram and Kohistan, were declared too dangerous for holding any activity. Half of these schools have been reconstructed. Work continues on the rest of them at various stages. The Earthquake Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Authority has been working on rebuilding the schools at a pace which can hardly be described as steady — because of funding challenges. Erra had the task of restoring a mind-boggling 2,900 schools; this is a stark reminder of just how crippling the earthquake was, as it demolished infrastructure located over vast areas of Pakistan and, in particular, Azad Kashmir. Of these, 1,800 schools have been reconstructed whereas work on 1,100 others is still to be accomplished. According to a news report, the provincial government has rehabilitated just 29 out of a total of 760 schools that it was supposed to have restored.

Over all these years, rebuilding costs have increased as new, fancier projects overtake the old ones in a race for funding. Meanwhile, a large number of students and teachers in the affected KP districts continue to be denied proper, civilised space to pursue knowledge with the guarantee of security and dignity. In the absence of their old premises, many of these schools hold classes in rented buildings and inside tents installed in open spaces. A decade and a half is a long time. A whole generation and thousands of more learners have passed through these makeshift schools thrown up by the 2005 quake, overseen by teachers faced with a long, unending emergency. Those who could have played a role in expediting reconstruction have conveyed a negative message — that Pakistanis do not quite give due importance to education. They might want to atone for their lack of initiative by trying to move things faster now.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2019