Future of girl students uncertain in Siraj Ahmed Goth

Updated October 17, 2019

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STUDENTS pass under a broken ceiling at the school in Siraj Ahmed 
Goth. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star
STUDENTS pass under a broken ceiling at the school in Siraj Ahmed Goth. — Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

KARACHI: It takes Hafiza 30 minutes to walk to school with her best friend every day. Both girls hope to complete their MBBS and become doctors. They want to earn for their family, they say, and walk around in white lab coats.

Their dream, however, might never come true. Currently, both are in the sixth grade. By the time they reach the eighth grade, their teacher said, they might not have a school to go to.

Read: In Pakistan, public education suffocates under surging population

“In Siraj Ahmed Goth and neighbouring areas, there is no functional secondary or higher secondary school for girls,” the teacher elaborated. “If you want to study further, you will have to study with boys. But even if the families agree to let their daughters study in the same school as boys, there is another problem: most schools in Siraj Ahmed Goth, Kamal Khan Jokhio Goth, Jamshoro and surrounding areas do not have enough teachers,” the teacher added.

Textbook problem

According to Haroon Baloch, a teacher at the Kamal Khan Jokhio Secondary School, around 90 per cent of girls in Kathore do not complete their secondary or higher secondary education.

“There are no schools for girls in these areas. In 2010, we allowed them to study at the boys’ secondary school that made little difference. We don’t have teachers for every subject or required number of classrooms. How will we accommodate girls from this or other villages. Many young girls who come to study here travel a long distance. It is not fair to them,” he said.

Area has no functional secondary or higher secondary school for girls

“Where are the girls supposed to go to after fifth or eighth grade? They do not have access to basic education or facilities here; yet those in power have built a degree college for women next to our school. Who is going to enroll in that college when only a handful of girls manage to complete their matriculation?” he wondered.

Talking about the situation in Siraj Ahmed Goth, Abdul Qayyum, who teaches English at the school, described the state of education as terrible.

“The problem of ghost teachers and schools is real. The education department has tried to combat this via biometric verification which helps the government map schoolteachers and compile their information on a central database,” he said. “But it has made transfers difficult. Earlier, if a teacher was not showing up for work, we could complain to our superior and he would take it up with the department. Now we have to wait forever to be heard,” he added.

“The problem is that there isn’t just one issue. There are so many. We have been in talks with the education department since 2005 to upgrade the school. On paper, we are a higher secondary school, but in reality we are trying our best to give children of varying ages the best education that we can offer,” he said, while talking to Dawn.

“My students come from a mix of Sindhi and Baloch background. They are brilliant. It is interesting to see how they pick up words and use them in their daily vocabulary,” he said, with a sense of pride. Walking around the school during recess, Mr Qayyum pointed to a building a few feet away.

“This is our oldest block. It was probably built in 1975 or even earlier. We currently use it for pre-nursery and nursery children. As we do not have teachers we had to outsource women from the community. We got lucky and a few girls who had studied here, volunteered to help us,” he explained.

Talking about the dilapidated condition of the school building, Mr Qayyum regretted that over the past few years they had to close some classrooms.

“Pieces of ceiling keep falling. Even in this room you can see the cracks. You know what happened six years ago? The class was in the middle of an Urdu lesson, which is still visible on the blackboard, when chunks of the ceiling fell. Thankfully, no one was hurt,” he shared the details of the mishap.

However, MPA Saleem Baloch claimed that the situation was not so bad. “The government boys’ school in Kamal Khan Jokhio is for both — boys and girls. We also have schools in other goths. There’s also a TCF [The Citizens Foundation] school and Quaid-i-Azam public school on the link road,” he said.

“Building a college in Kamal Khan Goth doesn’t mean that it is just for this goth. It is for anyone in the 20km radius. You know young girls come here to study from Jamshoro as we are right on the border of both cities. I think this college will be beneficial to many young women in this part Karachi,” he explained.

He said there was a desperate need for a women’s college in this neighbourhood.

Talking to Dawn about the state of girls education in the country, Human Rights Watch’s Saroop Ijaz said: “Pakistan has chronically underinvested in education for decades. Unesco guidelines say countries should spend four to six per cent of their GDP on education; Pakistan spends less than 2.8pc.”

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2019